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What to look for over the next week

We are three games into a long season, and the Cats have shown a lot of progress in a very short time together. The positives far outweigh the negatives, and once Calipari gets his team firing on all cylinders, everyone knows this squad will be deadly — though they could certainly beat most teams at half strength.

Here are a few things to watch for going into the next couple of low-profile games before things heat up again against Notre Dame and Baylor. How will the team continue to respond from the loss to Duke? If it was anything like it was against Lafayette that traditional “refuse to lose” attitude is already in place in the mentality of this team.

Assist-to-turnover ratio

The Cats run and gun style lends itself to a greater chance of turning the ball over. That is a fact that has faced Kentucky since John Calipari first became head coach. A higher-than-normal turnover rate isn’t cause for concern, but you can look at the numbers and take solace in the fact that things are only going to get better. At this time last season the “more experienced” 2011 Wildcats boasted a 1.50 assist/turnover ratio against an arguably a weaker first three opponents than this season’s team (Marist, Kansas, Penn State) with 38 total turnovers. Now these 2012 Wildcats have a 1.33 assist/turnover ratio, after facing the likes of a stingy Maryland and a very solid Duke team, with only 36 total turnovers.

One thing we can be sure of is that the turnovers will decrease as the team gets more comfortable and a true point guard takes the reigns of the offense. But this team really is not any worse off than the National Championship team was at the same time last year in terms of controlling the ball. That 2011 team finished the season with an assist/turnover ratio of 1.17, so these Cats are right where they should be.

— Shooting percentage

Kyle Wiltjer, Alex Poythress and the rest of the Wildcats can hardly miss. The team is shooting almost 53% from the field, the 14th best mark in the country. The outside shooting game from Wiltjer (12-of-19 from three) and Archie Goodwin (4-of-6 from three) will likely go down, if only slightly, but the scoring rates across the board should remain high. Kentucky will continue to rely on the inside scoring game of Nerlens Noel and Alex Poythress who have a combined 62% shooting percentage so far. Much in the same way Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were used last season, Noel and Poythress are the lob-master and the slash-master for this team. Those guys can get buckets, and the guards on this team will continue to feed them the ball for high percentage shots.

— Defensive hustle

This is a hard one to judge because the Cats were mauled so badly on the boards against Maryland that the numbers will remain skewed for a while. The defensive hustle must increase if this team wants to be able to put teams away. They currently ranked 253rd in the country in defensive rebounds with 33 per game. With guys like Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein on the floor, it’s hard to imagine that number can look so awful. Noel is making an impact in many phases of the game, including steals (10), blocks (7), and minimizing turnovers (3), but one area that they Cats need him to be the best is rebounding the basketball and limiting team’s second-chance opportunities. Noel has a team-leading 24 boards, good for eight per game. That number should skyrocket over the next couple of games.

— Emergence of Julius Mays and Jarrod Polson, Ryan Harrow working out of the dog house

The senior leader on the team has been quietly going about his business — likely doing even more off the court that on it. Mays is averaging almost 33 minutes per game, second most on the team behind Archie Goodwin. And while he has only scored 19 points, Calipari obviously sees the value of having him on the court as a true floor general. Mays is new to the system — just like the freshmen are. Look for him to begin to find a groove in Calipari’s system and start contributing to the stat column, in addition to his moral support.

Jarrod Polson has been a shocking surprise to us all. He has played in all three games thus far and contributed significant and meaningful minutes. In that sense, he has been the team’s sixth man over Willie Cauley-Stein. Once Ryan Harrow is back to 100 percent the rotation will be scrambled, but Polson has shown he can play with the big boys, and deserves to be more than a victory cigar in garbage time.

Speaking of Harrow, the mysterious illness that has kept him from traveling and practicing with the team may have finally worn off — but he has a lot of work to do to get back. Calipari said Harrow is the “low man on the totem pole” right now. So if he wants to be Calipari’s starting point guard, he had better bust his butt and earn it.

Article written by Stuart Hammer

B.S. Broadcast Journalism from the University of Kentucky. @StuartHammerKSR

12 Comments for What to look for over the next week

  1. Ukalum
    6:12 pm November 20, 2012 Permalink

    Well California university just fired their football coach too. Looks like uk is now 5th on the list for a new coach. You think joker would coach another year so we can fire him when there aren’t so many BCS openings.

  2. beltieboy
    6:15 pm November 20, 2012 Permalink

    Why would Harrow be in Cal’s doghouse? He’s out of shape after being ill….that’s all.

  3. tdogg40330
    6:30 pm November 20, 2012 Permalink

    2) who said he was in the dog house?? He’s gotta earn his spot back after sittin
    out all this time, the other kids have been workin their tails off …

  4. beltieboy
    6:33 pm November 20, 2012 Permalink

    3)Direct quote from Hammer “Emergence of Julius Mays and Jarrod Polson, Ryan Harrow working out of the dog house”

  5. tdogg40330
    6:37 pm November 20, 2012 Permalink

    4) sorry, missed that line. I dont think he is in the “dog house” just missed some time

  6. Assistant Coach
    7:28 pm November 20, 2012 Permalink

    Looks a lot like the same dog house Liggins was in during Cal’s first year.
    If the kid is ill, and I truly hope he isn’t, then I apologize.
    However, he wasn’t even on the bench in street clothes the last game at home.
    One would think that he would be there supporting the team, even if not fully recovered.

  7. Big Whoop
    7:40 pm November 20, 2012 Permalink

    Harrow has only played in one game so far and didn’t show much for a high school 5 star player. Of course, at this time last year everyone was wondering how Teague could’ve been a 5 star recruit and I don’t think anyone thought he would be ready for the NBA Draft. That just shows how much can change over the course of the season. Harrow has lost 7 lbs during his illness, so he is not in basketball condition. I wouldn’t call that being in the doghouse. He’s simply going to have to get conditioned again.

    Of the A/P’s Top 16 teams, UK falls right in the middle in Assist-to Turnover ratio. Michigan has the best of the bunch at 1.66 and Michigan St. is the worst at 0.7. The real issue, to me, is rebounding. UK’s 33 per game average is the worst of the Top 16, barely ahead of Ohio St. Only Creighton is worse on the offensive glass and only Duke is worse on the defensive boards. Of the Top 16 teams, UK is third in Blocks per game (behind Syracuse and Kansas).

  8. Bubble Buster
    7:57 pm November 20, 2012 Permalink

    You’re out of your mind if you think Harrow doesn’t immediately leapfrog Polson upon his return.

  9. barn
    8:04 pm November 20, 2012 Permalink

    i think stuart was referring to ryan’s status as a doghouse resident before his illness. cal has been on him hard to be tougher, more agressive, and to talk and communicate better on the court. sounds to me like it’s gonna be a while before he’s full speed. i hope he’s 100% by dec 29.

  10. Dumbledore
    8:30 pm November 20, 2012 Permalink

    This could’ve just said “see if they make shots and make stops”. Would’ve saved time for everyone.

  11. gjg
    8:36 pm November 20, 2012 Permalink

    Like most Kentuckians, I am a big Polson fan. The fact that he can hold his own is a tremendous plus. Plus, he and Wiltjer have a bond. I think this alone will get Polson in a LOT of gametime situations. Not to discount Ryan Harrow – he is the key to the whole season in my opinion…

  12. Big BlooHoo
    11:14 pm November 20, 2012 Permalink

    Speaking of bonds…I like the way Mays & WCT we’re clicking in the exhibitions on give & go plays/fast breaks . My hope is Harrow gets back in starting rotation so that pair can comein to give us that “D. Miller”lift off the bench we will need to get deep in the Big Dance. Love the way WCT runs the floor-lets exploit that strength!