It is so hard to find anything critical to say about the UK basketball season right now. The guys are playing defense at an historic level, and while the offense has been inconsistent at time, overall it has been a fun year filled with fast breaks and more dunks that one could remember. But if you had to try and find somewhere that UK could improve, I feel like I might have found the one area: DEFENSIVE REBOUNDING.
Just for comparison’s sake, consider this fact: On the offensive end of the floor, Kentucky has 113 offensive rebounds this season and their opponents have 122 defensive rebounds. Meaning so far this season, Kentucky has had almost a 50-50 chance of rebounding their missed shots. That’s incredible. But on the defensive end, Kentucky has allowed 84 offensive rebounds in just 7 games. That is an average of 12 offensive rebounds per game that UK is giving up against mostly smaller and less talented opponents.
Now, I am certainly not saying that UK is getting hammered on the boards on the defensive end of the floor. They have 195 defensive rebounds on the year. That means that UK is rebounding 70% of missed shots on the defensive end. That is nothing to be disappointed about for sure. The problem is the competition is now going to be ramping up in the next few weeks and I wonder if teams have noticed that UK is in such a hurry to get a fast break going that they often leave their big alone to rebound on the defensive end of the floor. So some teams have crashed the offensive glass and are essentially rebounding 4 on 2 against UK.
To be fair, if UK can keep up the 70% rebound rate for the entire season, then that is not really substandard. For instance, last year’s team rebounded 70.2% of shots on the defensive end of the floor. The 2012 national championship team only rebounded 68.7% of shots missed on the defensive end of the floor. So this year’s team is actually on pace with those teams, but those teams also played full seasons against many more quality opponents. I feel like it is difficult to know where this team might need improvement, but I feel like we have seen weaker teams able to rebound effectively on the offensive end. Kansas had 20 offensive rebounds. OK, they are a Top 10 team. But Montana State had 13 offensive rebounds and UT-Arlington had 15 offensive boards.
But this is where UK is so great. They are able to negate those offensive rebounds against weaker opponents because their size and shot blocking ability. So even when pointing out a marginal weakness, you have to point out UK’s strengths. Even when they don’t rebound well on the defensive end of the floor, it hasn’t mattered much because teams don’t have the skill and size to make the follow-up shot. We’ll see if that continues when the Texas, UNC, and Louisville games roll around, but I have to think that will be mostly the case much of the year.
Do you think that defensive rebounding has been any kind of issue so far? Or is that trying to find a flaw in a perfect team?