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Malik Monk Doesn’t Have to Carry Kentucky to a Final Four

Throughout the month of February, the national narrative about Kentucky was simple: “They’re struggling against a bad SEC, but you can’t count out Calipari in March, especially when Malik Monk can go for 30 at any given moment.”

The simplistic viewpoint was further illustrated by ESPN’s Myron Medcalf, who penned a piece yesterday titled “Why your team will not be going to the Final Four.”  Surprise, surprise, Medcalf points to Monk.

Malik Monk (9-of-18) collected 33 points in Kentucky’s 76-66 win over Florida on Saturday. He could lead Kentucky to a national title. But if the player who finished 4-for-14 in a 22-point loss in the first matchup against Florida shows up, how will Kentucky recover? Last season’s Wildcats thought Jamal Murray could bail them out. And when he went 1-for-9 from the 3-point line in the second round against Indiana last season, Kentucky went home. Could happen again with Monk.

I won’t spend time poking holes in that logic (it’s too easy).  Instead, I’ll focus on the good things Kentucky has done over the last six weeks, the kind of things that easily get overlooked when you aren’t covering the spread and blowing out opponents every single game.

Bam is Good

The same could not be said earlier in the season.  Just because Bam looked like Dwight Howard, doesn’t mean he was playing like the former NBA All-Star.

He didn’t have a reliable post move, he wasn’t an exceptional rebounder, he didn’t make substantial defensive impact and he spent most of the game figuring out the difference between playing physical and fouling.

Bam has developed a nice hook shot.  It isn’t a guaranteed make every single time, but it’s quick, soft and assertive.  When Bam hauled in 13 rebounds against UCLA, it was the third time he surpassed double-digit rebounds.  He didn’t do it again until Valentine’s Day (17 games later).  He’s done it three times since because he’s now using two hands and anticipating the missed shot.  On defense, his timing on blocked shots has improved, but his greatest improvement is on the perimeter, avoiding the foul and forcing guards into bad shots.

Adebayo is being aggressive and attacking, instead of playing timid and afraid to foul, transforming the way Kentucky plays.

Monk is Driving

As Medcalf pointed out, it’s hard to win when Monk is 4-14 from the floor.  That is a fact and will always be a fact.  Malik Monk can’t always be ‘on.’  There will be times when Monk’s shot will not fall.  The good news: Monk is doing something about it.

In the last two games Monk has scored 50 second half points after shooting a combined 4-15 in the first half.  The shooter always knew to get out of a slump, you must keep shooting.  He didn’t realize the easiest way to do it was from the free throw line…until now.  He’s getting buckets at the rim or getting fouled in the process to heat up before catching fire.

Combine the first two points together and you have UK’s deadliest weapon: Monk and Bam in the pick-and-roll, a combination that has produced plenty of buckets over the past two games.

Multiple Defenses

The Cats’ Achilles heel isn’t finding offense from somebody besides Malik Monk, it’s perimeter defense.  Straight-line drives and miscues in pick-and-roll defense gave opponents too many easy buckets early in the season.

Calipari has found a solution to the problem in a variety of defensive schemes.  He hates the 2-3 zone, but it’s worked too well to scrap.  Trapping has probably been the most effective tool.  It was just enough to get the ball out of J.J. Frazier’s hands at Georgia and it sped up Vanderbilt to create enough turnovers to pave the way for the largest Kentucky comeback in the Calipari era.

Contributing Seniors

The often forgotten trio fits this team well.  When something is not working, they have the skills to fill the absence.   If a guard isn’t defending or playing timid, Dominique Hawkins will shut down the opponent, draw an offensive foul, then attack the rim.  If a guard isn’t rebounding or shooting well, there is Mychal Mulder.  Derek Willis can do both from the four-spot.

The term “role player” carries a negative connotation, until you come off the bench in the Final Four and knock down a couple threes in the final minutes.  Don’t believe me, just ask Tim Henderson.  Do not be surprised if one of these three has a similar moment in March Madness.

This team is starting to click, but they aren’t quite there…yet.  While they’ve been trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together, they’ve improved individual assets that will become valuable in postseason play.  We haven’t seen the beautiful picture, but we’ve got a good idea what it will look like.

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

31 Comments for Malik Monk Doesn’t Have to Carry Kentucky to a Final Four

  1. jayiron11
    9:42 pm March 1, 2017 Permalink

    Great article Nick. I’ve given you crap in the KSR comments in the past, but your areticles have became my favorite since the beginning of this past football season.
    Love the positive spin you put on the Cats chances. There’s been a lot of negativity lately from the small, toxic portion of BBN, so it’s great to read some positives about the team.
    Again dude, really good article! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Luether
    9:49 pm March 1, 2017 Permalink

    I would call Bam’s go-to post move a jump hook…

    • UKFaninNY
      10:25 am March 2, 2017 Permalink

      Nope – No one relies on one player as UK does

      As Monk goes, so does Uk

      Grayson Allen? He scored like two points the other night and Duke won – You think UK would win a game where Monk scored two?

  3. UKFaninNY
    10:28 pm March 1, 2017 Permalink

    Counterpoint – Yes, they do

    • UKFaninNY
      10:29 pm March 1, 2017 Permalink

      Meant to say, Yes, he does

    • UK Big Board Update
      10:59 pm March 1, 2017 Permalink

      And UCLA will rely on Lonzo Ball.
      Louisville, Donovan Mitchell.
      Oregon, Dillon Brooks.
      Duke, Grayson Allen.
      UNC, Justin Jackson.
      Kansas, Josh Jackson.
      Villanova, Josh Hart.
      Arizona, Allonzo Trier.

      Every good team has a dynamic leader. Any one of those teams I mentioned, if they lost their best player, their title run is in serious jeopardy.

      The good thing is, we have a pretty good supporting cast, and that was kind of the point of the article. Fox is capable of 20ppg and 10 assists. Briscoe can fill up a stat sheet (he did have a triple double) and Bam is playing like the physical specimen we hoped he would be. And we all know Monk can put 30 up in a half. I like our chances.

    • AGSlater
      11:48 pm March 1, 2017 Permalink

      I agree somewhat. Our cast is just not consistant enough. Thats what worries me.

  4. GroundControlToNumber9
    10:52 pm March 1, 2017 Permalink

    This is a severely blue tinted view. Kentucky barely beat a 16-14 Vandy team at home on Senior night. That’s barely a 50% team in a shitty conference.

    This game on a neutral court… and the cats don’t win.

    Now that we are in ‘desperation’ season as teams are playing like it’s their last chances we will continue to see people play above their level… but I only see 3 people on Kentucky’s team consistently raise their level in that way… and that was only when it started looking grim (Adabayo, Monk, & Willis).

    Calling this s h i t out will do serious good… fluffing this team and it’s ego will do nothing but set us up for an early exit.

    • Luether
      11:02 pm March 1, 2017 Permalink

      You have an overinflated view of yourself and your opinion…

    • UK Big Board Update
      11:21 pm March 1, 2017 Permalink

      Louisville just lost to a 16-12 Wake Forest team.

      Must be poor coaching….

      Luether u mad?

    • UK Big Board Update
      11:26 pm March 1, 2017 Permalink

      “This game on a neutral court… and the cats don’t win.”

      You have no way of proving that. Get over yourself.

    • maximumscott
      11:38 pm March 1, 2017 Permalink

      Vandy is a team that when playing well could beat anyone in March because they can hit sonmany threes and every player is a threat to hit a 3. I mean when your 7’1 center is hitting 30 foot shoots with great defense and shot clock running down to 3 seconds then you cant really defend that. Vandy been playing great ball and were hitting alot of there first chance shots even with decent contests. This isnt the same early season Vandy. I cant wait till tourny to see just how good the ACc is they should go 20-0 in the first weekend judging how ESPn talks about every damn team being ” a really dangerous good team whose record doesnt reflect it” you cant tell me the ACc as a whole is that big.

    • AGSlater
      11:43 pm March 1, 2017 Permalink

      Agree 100

    • GroundControlToNumber9
      12:39 am March 2, 2017 Permalink

      Luether – There’s a reason you don’t talk about basketball.

    • Eazy
      12:56 am March 2, 2017 Permalink

      Vandy is a bubble team who has wins over Florida, Iowa State, Arkansas, and South Carolina. They are a top 40 team. Hardly a bad win. The SEC is better than people think. And to act like we are struggling in conference play is laughable. UK is 15-2 in the SEC.

    • AGSlater
      2:40 am March 2, 2017 Permalink

      You sound like Cal. I guess we will find out how good the conference does tourny time

    • Eazy
      11:07 am March 2, 2017 Permalink

      Once again I don’t care how the conference does. I care how UK does. And we have been to 4 of the last 6 final fours and knocked your Cards out if 2 of those dances. We are 4-0 vs the ACC in the tournament with Cal so I like our chances. Go back to cheering for your ACC teams more than UL. Lol. We own you.

  5. AGSlater
    11:42 pm March 1, 2017 Permalink

    Laugh out loud at this. He has had to score 20+ to beat bad teams.

    • UK Big Board Update
      11:50 pm March 1, 2017 Permalink

      He’s also scored 47 to beat good teams.

    • Eazy
      1:01 am March 2, 2017 Permalink

      Vandy is not a bad team. They are a top 40 team with wins over Iowa State, SC, Arkansas, and UF.

  6. UK Big Board Update
    11:53 pm March 1, 2017 Permalink

    Its funny that AS SOON as the Louisville game is over, AGSLater starts posting here. LMAO.
    😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

    • AGSlater
      12:10 am March 2, 2017 Permalink

      Yeah I work for a living. Overnight. Sorry Big Board. Not sure what your excuse is as to why you are on here all night. Seems like only young guns are up at these hours unless for work

    • AGSlater
      12:13 am March 2, 2017 Permalink

      Most everything I post is not crazy. Im sorry I dont wait to crack on any negativity. I really dont understand your logic. I could imagine how you were in Billy g’s years and our NIT run a couple years go. You im sure had to be hurting because no excuse worked for you.

    • UK Big Board Update
      12:15 am March 2, 2017 Permalink

      2nd shift, or third? Either way, sucks to be you.

      I get to make my own schedule. 😉

    • AGSlater
      12:29 am March 2, 2017 Permalink

      Cool. You probably get a lot of action spending most time on here. Ill lov you if you need some love. Being inwanted can be bad for your health.

    • UK Big Board Update
      12:16 am March 2, 2017 Permalink

      No, I wasn’t hurting during Billy G’s years – I knew changes would be made, and they were.

    • UK Big Board Update
      12:21 am March 2, 2017 Permalink

      Its funny watching you continue to try to convince us that you are a UK fan, and fail miserably. lol. But please, keep it up. Its been boring around here since cats paws departure.

    • UK Big Board Update
      12:34 am March 2, 2017 Permalink

      Nah, my girlfriend’s sleeping in the other room. Thanks though.

      (btw, I’m on PST. Its not that late here.)

    • AGSlater
      12:55 am March 2, 2017 Permalink

      Oh. Well we can keep it as a bromance, but you have been making it hard lately. I dont like the fighting. Maybe we can see a counselor??? Im tryin to make this worj

    • Eazy
      1:10 am March 2, 2017 Permalink

      That NIT appearance in between 4 final fours was so painful. Lol.

  7. TBW3011
    11:51 am March 2, 2017 Permalink

    Only read the headline. He does against the high quality opponents. Can be off in first or second round and get by.