“Look, we can’t all do the big arms thing. I’ll do big arms and you all just look at me and go ‘Ooh, look, he’s doing big arms.'”
With only one more day separating Kentucky and the Blue Devils, Cal might be putting in some late night calls to Joe B. Hall’s rotary phone to get a couple tips on the Twin Towers mechanic.
Cal is famous for redesigning his systems to fit his players, instead of the other way around, but this might be his biggest challenge at UK yet, as the Terrapins showed last Friday. One of the biggest questions the game left about Kentucky’s two frontcourt anchors was: how will they handle other skilled big men?
Maryland’s offense left a lot to be desired, but if there was one bright spot, it was 7-plus foot center Alex Len, who cleaned up with 23/12/4 on 55.6% shooting. While Jarrod Polson was getting all the headlines on the Kentucky side, Len was making a name for himself around Maryland. A few national columnists paid some close attention to his game, and heaped some praise on him afterward:
I leave this borough on this Saturday in total agreement with everybody who has suggested that Len, the Maryland sophomore, was the best player on the court late Friday during Kentucky’s 72-69 win over the Terrapins.
Dan Kelly (to ZagsBlog):
There is a lot to like about Alex Len one game into his sophomore year. He has obviously improved very much. If he continues to play like he did last night he might be the second best big man in the draft behind Indiana’s Cody Zeller.
Kelly had a few nice things to say about Noel and Cauley-Stein (whom he correctly points out needs a nickname), drawing attention to Willie’s athleticism and instincts, and Nerlens’ motor and shot-blocking skills. But ultimately, it was Len who got the most praise, and rightly so. So what impact will his admittedly laudable game have on our frontcourt going forward?
We’ll see tomorrow night, as they’ll have to improve before taking on Mason Plumlee, whose stat line (19/14/4) was pretty impressive in Duke’s opening win against the Georgia State Panthers. Plumlee’s role in the Blue Devils’ offense is key, anchoring the middle to allow great scorers to spread the floor and shoot the lights out. If Noel and WCS are able to neutralize, or even mitigate Plumlee’s effect on the ballgame, the rest of the Cats will have a much easier time. If they can’t, well, 1-1 isn’t so bad.
Whatever Nerlens and Willie do on the offensive end, they cannot afford to make a star out of opposing teams’ big men. That’s precisely what happened last Friday, and even though they won, it’s a dangerous habit that’ll come back to bite them in the long run if left unchecked. So what impact will Alex Len have on the Wildcats long-term? Will he be the first of a series of bigs who take advantage of weak spots inside? Or will he be a wake-up call that spurs Noel and Cauley-Stein to improve their defense against opposing big men?
Trusting Cal, my money’s on the latter. Maybe they’ll turn it around by tomorrow against yet another Plumlee brother, or maybe it’ll take a little longer than that. But eventually, look for the New Twin Towers to figure it out sooner rather than later. And when they do, other teams might as well write a nice farewell letter to the rim, because they won’t be seeing it for a year.