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When Will This Team Hit Their Stride?

Aside from winning at an absurd rate; John Calipari’s teams at Kentucky have all had two things in common, high levels of talent and inexperience. Another commonality that inexperience has brought to the table early on from season to season is frustration for fans, players, and coaches alike.  It’s a valid excuse for frustrating play early on as well, after all when’s the last time you and other perfect strangers have been collectively thrown together to accomplish a task at an elite level with others actively trying to make you fail?  While youth and inexperience are frustrating in the beginning, those traits fade away later on in the season, bringing about an elite level product that is a threat to take home the title come April.  But, the all important question remains.  Just when does that lack of experience fade away and become that all important championship product?  To give a better look into this, I have been monitoring the past three seasons to see just when Calipari’s young teams break through their proverbial Freshman barrier to become that team capable of so much.


The data for the 2012 Wildcats improvement and when it occured can be found here (via, while they may look confusing, it’s actually pretty simple to understand.  Offensive Rating is simply points scored divided by possessions.  Defensive Rating is the same, just for defense. Pythagorean Rating is a measure of the ratio between the two numbers, higher the better.  Other basic stats are included as well.  Forgive me for the very brash and basic stats for 2011 and 2010 versions of Kentucky that aren’t nearly as in depth as 2012’s edition, but its the best available data at this time.

The 2012 Wildcats were certainly an immensely talented group, but they did experience some lulls before conference play started.  However, once mid-January hit the performance went from that of a very good team to elite-level team.  This was mainly due to maturation of the Freshmen, and statistically speaking it was because of lack of turnovers lost on offense.  Once Marquis Teague figured out how to command his team full of talented Freshmen the offensive switch went on and the squad never looked back.  The rest as they say is history.

The 2011 squad was a different story, they started out at a high level (excluding the Maui title game) then entered a lull mid-conference season only to come out roaring in March.  We often hear Calipari say “we’re everybody’s Superbowl,” and this was very much true in 2011.  Many of the team’s losses came because of opponents’ ability to play at a much higher level than they were truly capable of.  It can’t all be blamed on that though, much of this had to do with poor defense during those late months in the season.  However that team turned up the defensive heat on the road in Knoxville, notching a win that sparked a late season improvement (eventual wins over Ohio State and North Carolina too).

Calipari’s inaugural Kentucky squad started out undefeated for a good portion of the season, but that was fools gold early on.  Close wins because of turnovers and poor perimeter shooting were causes of this.  This greatly affected offensive efficiency, but during early February the offense started to come together pairing with a stout defense, creating a nightmare for opponents.  While that group fell short of their ultimate goal, there’s no denying the improvement late in the season.


So, what have we learned?  Even though the record may be great early on it’s not a true indication of how well a Calipari team is truly capable of performing.  There tend to be some struggles early on, as should be expected from all teams who lack veteran leadership. But they’ll improve drastically as the season progresses.  What about the current ‘Cats who have yet to play a game, when will they start to skyrocket?  Difficult to say as other teams before at least had some veteran leadership return giving a security blanket so to speak.  While there are no returning upperclassmen who started, we do have some with D-1 experience in Julius Mays and Ryan Harrow.  Given that, this may just be the most nontraditional team of Kentucky’s nontraditional teams, but expect them to be a contender come the later months of the season.  Talent, experience, and a little bit of history say you’ll have to wait for this squad to hit their stride, but it’ll come eventually, and once it does it’ll be a powerful stride as well.


Article written by Jonathan Schuette

12 Comments for When Will This Team Hit Their Stride?

  1. tdogg40330
    8:18 pm October 25, 2012 Permalink

    before long Cauley and Noel will be a nightmare down low on both sides of the ball. This
    team has some major upside and mis-match problems for the rest of the nation. Talent alone
    will win most games early on, but when they all start to “get it” WATCH OUT !!!!

  2. MartyFeldmanEyes
    8:19 pm October 25, 2012 Permalink

    It will occur on December 21st……THAT is what the Mayans were forecasting!

  3. blade
    8:33 pm October 25, 2012 Permalink

    lot of talent. really impressed with poythress and goodwin. hopefully tht wiltjer pick on harrow will knock some mustard off of him. go big blue

  4. TampaCat
    8:54 pm October 25, 2012 Permalink

    “When Will This Team Hit Their Stride?” – As they walk into the YUM to play the Cards….
    UK – 71 Cards – 70

  5. Jake
    10:06 pm October 25, 2012 Permalink

    Its obvious, much like the team with brandon knight this team will take an entire year to develop. The pieces are there and its going to be another exciting year once again

  6. juan4uk
    10:19 pm October 25, 2012 Permalink

    Scheutte, what planet do u come from?? Who the hell gets frustrated ( fan wise) with Cals teams early in the season?? Antsy doesn’t come until last week of Dec., stress doesn’t come for a couple weeks into sec play. Worry doesn’t start until abouut the 5th loss.

  7. bluebeard
    10:40 pm October 25, 2012 Permalink

    This team gonna be fine. Wiltjer D is not gonna be an issue, and Harrow is fast. Harrow is gonna give so many teams trouble. UK has had problems with short fast guards in the last 3 years, well now we have our own. I think we got a super fast ball handler in Harrow, and teams really wont be able to slow him down, considering the talent we have to go along with Harrow.

  8. katzrjamers
    11:30 pm October 25, 2012 Permalink

    Feb. 23rd at 8:59pm (ESPN College Gameday). By then Harrow will have a deep, throaty voice from all the talking Cal has him doing on offense, Noel won’t just block shots, he’ll grab them in midair and make the outlet pass, Goodwin will pass to the open man on the fast break (and still avg. 15ppg), opponents will cower in fear when Poythress takes it to the rim, Wiltjer will have taken on a strong resemblance to Larry Bird, and WCS… gonna be Willie World today.
    3..2..1..We Have Ignition!

  9. Big Whoop
    6:05 am October 26, 2012 Permalink

    You can build your numbers for comparison for the 2010 and 2011 seasons by going to I’m sure it is tedious work, but can be done.

    When Rupp and Hall coached the Cats, there was a point every season when the coach felt the team had finally jelled. With Hall, we were great in December and awful in January for whatever reasons. Then, his teams seemed to come together in February.

    Cal’s teams seem to make a steady progression of getting better as the season progresses. When the light clicks on with Cal’s PG, his team become nearly unbeatable. Waiting for that game and watching it happen is one of the great pleasures of UK basketball under Cal’s leadership.

  10. Will S
    9:48 am October 26, 2012 Permalink

    Sometime after the loss to Duke, im guessing.

  11. FarmersKids
    1:52 pm October 26, 2012 Permalink

    I thought this was UK football thread…whew!

  12. DCS195
    2:21 pm October 26, 2012 Permalink

    9) You got it right! The PG just may get it quicker this year (earlier than the last three) because of last year’s experience.