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Power Ranking BBN’s Current Basketball Concerns


It’s not quite panic mode around Big Blue Nation, but there are plenty of concerns weighing on fans’ minds as conference play rolls on.

In the beginning, Kentucky basketball followers told themselves many of the team’s early-season problems would work themselves out in time for conference play; well, conference play is here and those problems are still problematic, while others have been emerged.

This week, the Cats presented many concerns for fans to debate at work, in class, at the family dinner table and on message boards. The severity of those concerns varies from conversation to conversation, but these power rankings present somewhat of an idea of how they are prioritized at this stage in the season.

Leading the way is the UK frontcourt, undoubtedly the biggest disappointment from Tuesday night’s loss…



red-arrow 1.) Frontcourt production

Topping this week’s power rankings is Kentucky’s frontcourt — or lack thereof. The three primary bigs were complete no-shows at LSU, combining for seven points, eight rebounds, six turnovers and 12 fouls in the game.

The trio of Marcus Lee, Alex Poythress and Skal Labissiere had as many rebounds as Mychal Mulder, a 6-4 reserve guard who averaged two minutes per game entering Tuesday night’s trip to Baton Rouge.

Lee was the biggest disappointment of the bunch. He played only five minutes in the entire game as a starter before fouling out with zero points and two rebounds.

Poythress and Labissiere also failed to produce in their combined 42 minutes played.

“We got killed at the 4 and 5,” said John Calipari. “Murdered… They gave us absolutely nothing.”

      2.) Isaiah Briscoe’s shooting

There isn’t a worst shooter in college basketball than Isaiah Briscoe. For a guy so good at driving the basketball, drawing contact, and finishing at the rim, he simply cannot shoot at all. Briscoe is currently shooting 35 percent from the foul line and 19 percent from outside. I honestly can’t remember the last time a shot of his went in.

Calipari said he recently told Briscoe to find a spot on the court, anywhere, and learn to make a shot from there. He said he told Briscoe to devote his time to shooting from one particular spot and the team will work around that.

red-arrow 3.) Competitiveness

After competing hard in wins against Louisville and Ole Miss, the Cats took a step backward at LSU by playing its worst game of the season. The lack of effort led to the team being called out by the only two players who did give their all in the game: Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray. Ulis told reporters his team came out flat and wasn’t ready to play.

ESPN’s Seth Greenberg said, “I have a lot of concerns for this Kentucky team. They don’t compete, they don’t play hard.”

On his call-in show Wednesday night, Calipari admitted to being worried about the team’s mentality.

“You’re trying to figure out why you’re thinking the way you do.  You look at guys out there who were tentative, basically got bowled over.  Where was the fight?  Where was the competitive spirit?”

green-arrow 4.) Skal Labissiere

Though he is one-third of the problem in the current No. 1 concern, Skal Labissiere’s individual struggles fall to third on this list.

Labissiere played well in the win against Ole Miss, considering the slump he had been in throughout December. He disappeared again at LSU, but he did reel Ben Simmons into a nonsense foul.


That counts for something, right?

       5.) The lack of offensive weapons

Kentucky is a two-man offense right now with Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray scoring the basketball and everyone else hoping to add a couple of garbage buckets to help out. Alex Poythress and Marcus Lee cannot create for themselves; Skal Labissiere is a hot mess right now; and we just spoke of Isaiah Briscoe’s struggles with anything resembling an actual shot.

Aside from the occasional three-pointer by Derek Willis, this team relies too heavily on how well Ulis and Murray are shooting the ball. The Cats needed huge treys from Ulis, Murray and Dominque Hawkins in the second half of the Louisville game; if not for those, Louisville likely wins that one.

A post presence sure would make a world of difference for the offense. Only one person on the team can provide that and he’s running a little behind schedule in doing so.

      6.) Free throw shooting

Kentucky currently ranks 290th in the country at the foul line at 65 percent from the stripe. It has been exceptionally bad in the first two games of conference play with a 50 percent clip and a 52 percent clip against Ole Miss and LSU. Kentucky hit only 22 of its 43 attempts in those two games.

Isaiah Briscoe in those two games: 2-for-14.

red-arrow 7.) Rebounding

Kentucky was out-rebounded in three of its last four games and two of those three games were losses. In fact, Kentucky was out-rebounded in all three of its losses on the season, the other being at UCLA.

Just another reminder this isn’t the team of a year ago.

      8.) Shot selection

Why Jamal Murray insists on shooting the pull-up jumper two feet inside the three-point line is beyond me. Why Isaiah Briscoe insists on shooting at all is even further beyond me.

In the LSU game, Murray took two or three long two-pointers that found the back of the iron. Briscoe took two three-pointers and another long jumper, and none of them were close to finding their target. Tyler Ulis also took a couple of ill-advised, contested shots; Alex Poythress launched a quick three-pointer, too.

In the case of Murray and Ulis, it goes back to the lack of help around them. Seth Greenberg said Kentucky was running its offensive sets without any purpose or intention of scoring, which is why those two settled for forced shots.

No matter how you look at it, the shot selection wasn’t good.

red-arrow 9.) Tyler Ulis’ three-point shooting

Once believed to be the team’s most trusted long-range shooter, Ulis’ numbers are down on the year from outside. He hit only three of his 12 attempts against Ole Miss and LSU, after crawling his way back into our good graces with four made three-pointers in the Louisville win.

Ulis is currently shooting 29 percent on the season, well below his 43 percent last season. ulis-3s


green-arrow 10.) Jamal Murray’s turnovers

After turning the ball over seven times against Louisville, Murray seemed to settle it down a tad offensively in the next two games. He turned the ball over twice each game against Ole Miss and LSU, below his season average of 3.3 turnovers per game.

Murray is still learning to play off the ball and still learning when to create and when to defer, so hopefully this number continues to decline as the season progresses.

Article written by Drew Franklin

I can recite every line from Forrest Gump, blindfolded. Follow me on Twitter: @DrewFranklinKSR

39 Comments for Power Ranking BBN’s Current Basketball Concerns

  1. snl1960
    8:11 pm January 7, 2016 Permalink

    Why did you cut out skal being just as dirty hitting Simmons back after initial contact.. Just did not get caught.

    • UK Big Board Update
      8:23 pm January 7, 2016 Permalink

      Ah, I guess he’s not allowed to retaliate? The pussification of America continues, amirite?

  2. dgtuk
    8:27 pm January 7, 2016 Permalink

    yes Drew:

    Obviously the problem is Murray shooting “just inside” the 3 pt line shots. Thank you for that excellent analysis…please go drink a beer and shut the f>>ck up. Geesuss..of all the things to worry about…

    How about…go gather with 5 or 6 of your best friends at Two Keys and solve world hunger….LOL

    • UK Big Board Update
      8:28 pm January 7, 2016 Permalink

      ^ he mad

    • SanDiegoCats
      10:11 pm January 7, 2016 Permalink

      What a sick life you have dgtuk.

  3. Jiminy Crickets
    8:29 pm January 7, 2016 Permalink

    The best this teams offense has looked all season was against Louisville. A game Briscoe did not play. Coincidence? The ball dies when he gets it, and its a turn over every time he shoots, or gets fouled

    • JusSayin
      9:48 pm January 7, 2016 Permalink

      Duke game.

    • Jiminy Crickets
      10:09 pm January 7, 2016 Permalink

      we shot a better FG%, 3pt % and FT% against Louisville than we did against Duke. JusSayin

    • Jiminy Crickets
      10:14 pm January 7, 2016 Permalink

      Ill save you the trouble..

      UK vs Duke 44.8%FG, 30%3pt, 61%FT

      UK vs UL 46.2%FG, 47.8%3pt, 64%FT

    • JusSayin
      12:27 am January 8, 2016 Permalink

      No the best we looked all season was beating a top 10 team by double digits on a neutral site. While Briscoe SHUT DOWN a guy averaging 30. Not nearly giving up a 14 point lead at home against a fringe top 25 team without their center.

  4. Bill the Cat
    8:35 pm January 7, 2016 Permalink

    Did Cal REALLY tell Briscoe they would work around whatever spot he could shoot from? Really!? REALLY?!?

  5. Bill the Cat
    8:38 pm January 7, 2016 Permalink

    Our lineup should be Ulis, Hawkins, Murray, Poytress, Willis. They are the ONLY players we have that can score. If arrogant Cal would teach a zone defense and stick with it for longer than one possession, they may even be able to play decent defense with that lineup.

    • The Rest of the story
      8:43 pm January 7, 2016 Permalink

      I would trade Poytress for Lee since Alex cannot be consistent and will never be what everyone wants him to be.

    • Bill the Cat
      8:51 pm January 7, 2016 Permalink

      I could go with that lineup for the 5 minutes Lee would be able to stay in the game.

    • bstains
      9:11 pm January 7, 2016 Permalink

      Don’t bring up playing zone, people on here get bent out of shape if you even mention it.

    • UK Big Board Update
      9:29 pm January 7, 2016 Permalink

      ^ I agree. Look at all the success Jim Boeheim has had, with all the Final Fours and multiple championships and whatnot.

    • JusSayin
      12:30 am January 8, 2016 Permalink

      You honestly think Hawkins is a better scorer than Briscoe based on one game? Briscoe had gone 18 over twice this season. Prisoners of the moment

    • Bill the Cat
      4:38 pm January 8, 2016 Permalink

      Big Board – I’m not saying play zone the entire game and every game like ‘Cuse does. But when we are getting our a$$ handed to us by one on one moves it may be wise to admit your guy is getting beat and try something different like a zone, box and 1 or triangle/two defense. Zone against LSU would have been good b/c Simmons hasn’t shown he can shoot outside yet. Then, when you see that Quarterman is hot, u change to a box/1 and cool him off. Simple adjustments we never make. Now put your blinders back on, drink the blue Koolaid and point out one more thing I say as if I mean it as an absolute, without question statement.

      And, no, I don’t think Hawkins is better than Briscoe individually but he makes us a better TEAM when he’s on the floor as compared to Briscoe. He can hit shots, he can hit free throws but can’t defend taller guys as well. So, maybe you need to play a zone at times when he’s in the game. I want to see a five man game when we are on offense, jot a two man game of Ulis and Murray. Teams have learned all they need to do is play Briscoe tough b/c he can’t throw it in the ocean right now. He’s pressing too much and may e the bench will do him some good.

    • BlueMediator
      11:40 am January 9, 2016 Permalink

      The problem is it takes time to teach those zone defenses. We are one of the youngest teams in the country and typically do not have guys more than a couple years. I am sure Cal would like to do a zone on occasion but we would likely be terrible at it as well.
      Look at Cal’s record. He must be doing something right! Let him coach and support his decisions they’ve worked pretty well for us so far.

    • Southendtimd
      9:34 pm January 9, 2016 Permalink

      You think we’re not rebounding the ball now… if you start Ulis, Hawkins, Poythress, Willis and Murray, Tates Creek High School will have a bigger lineup than UK. Do you actually watch basketball, or just pick your bracket by what school has the prettiest colors?

  6. The Rest of the story
    8:41 pm January 7, 2016 Permalink

    Good grief everyone. This is a down year for Cal. UK will not be a final 4 team every year and this just happens to be one. Not many schools have had the success that UK has had under Cal and another 20+ win season would be great at most schools. The parts for a champion are just not here and blaming this and that will not change it. Ifs ands buts and nuts we all have a Merry Christmas!

    • WatchutalkinboutWillis
      8:31 am January 8, 2016 Permalink

      If I may speak for everyone else…I don’t think the frustration lies in expecting to be a Final Four team. I think the frustration lies in this team’s inconsistency and lack of development. I, personally, just want to see them play up to their potential and I don’t think they are at all. Therein lies the frustration.

    • SinceStollField
      8:44 am January 8, 2016 Permalink

      Sometimes the freshmen work out, sometimes they don’t. Cal thought Skal was going to be one of best centers in the country and quite possibly the number one pick in the draft. He also thought Briscoe could make a free throw.

  7. jack
    8:42 pm January 7, 2016 Permalink

    If Cal said Briscoe could pick a spot, I would pick the foul line.

    • blueboots
      7:41 am January 8, 2016 Permalink

      LOL He really can’t hit from there

    • DT in DC
      9:34 am January 8, 2016 Permalink

      HA! I was just about to say the spot Briscoe should pick to learn to hit from was the free throw line. That makes most sense. He’s so good at driving to the rim and getting fouled. If he could convert all those fouls into points at the line, he’d average 20 points a game!

  8. Sp0rtsFreq
    8:54 pm January 7, 2016 Permalink

    Not sure I agree with the order of the list, Drew, but you did hit on most of their “biggest” problems. One concern/correction, though……the phrase “Kentucky was running its offensive sets without any purpose or intention of scoring” is NOT something that’s unique for THIS team and could have easily been said about pretty much every team that Cal has fielded at UK at some point!! I think it directly reflects his strategy of “letting players play” rather than having them focus on perfecting “set plays!” While I agree that this part of his strategy has probably had a profound effect on him becoming the #1 recruiting coach in the country, as it lets players learn how to improvise and play a game that dynamically keys on their strengths…..the flip-side is that it sometimes drives us nuts, as fans, because his teams often look like they are dribbling around “without a purpose” while the players are trying to figure out what to do next. It’s definitely a catch-22, and not a trivial one at that, as you can’t just say that he needs to run more set plays, as doing such may unravel the very basis of the NBA-first program that he’s built…..but it definitely can get frustrating at times for the fans as we watch uber-talented college athletes somewhat awkwardly try to figure out how to play an offense that isn’t “paint-by-numbers!!”

    • Angelo
      12:35 am January 8, 2016 Permalink

      Please short. Paragraphs

  9. SanDiegoCats
    10:09 pm January 7, 2016 Permalink

    Some of our fan base is so negative. Yeah it was a disappointing loss and no one thought we would have 3 at this point. But look at what Cal has done since he has been here and the future is bright. You don’t have to be undefeated to win a championship. Here’s to a win Saturday.

  10. sonnyg333
    10:43 pm January 7, 2016 Permalink


    All can shoot and hit free throws +
    All can shoot inside or out +
    All will play hard each game +
    All will play hard on both ends of the court +
    Small line-up –

    Our front court doesn’t want to play, let them hand out water and towels…
    And Skal to the line-up when someone shows him how to play basketball….

    • WatchutalkinboutWillis
      8:35 am January 8, 2016 Permalink

      All will play hard on both ends of the court? I disagree. Ulis, Hawkins and Matthews will. Murray, Willis and Mulder haven’t shown or been able to show they can shut down opposition defensively. Also, that lineup is just way too small.

  11. jonthes
    11:23 pm January 7, 2016 Permalink

    Jamal needs to defer all the time. Tyler is that good. Only at the end of a shot clock should he go off on his own. When he’s the point guard on an NBA team he’ll remember how much he learned from Tyler.

  12. syrin23
    11:26 pm January 7, 2016 Permalink

    One concern not mentioned is Cal’s horrible end game coaching in close games that matter. We’re up by three with 6 minutes to play ? Time to stop playing offense ! Killed us against Wisconsin, he did it against the ‘Ville, and we had to get some lucky 40 foot shots with time expiring to win, and he even did it in his only national title.

    • jonthes
      12:18 am January 8, 2016 Permalink

      He’s better than Pitino was but not much. I think he’s too conservative like most highly successful coaches, you may need to toss the dice on a few plays for a title even if you’ve got the best team. I can’t stand K but he has done that more than once.

  13. Game Changer
    11:31 pm January 7, 2016 Permalink

    I hate to sound like a male cheerleader but I honestly don’t think the three loses were that bad… hear me out.
    1. UCLA: this is a team that steps up big for top ranked teams and falls flat for lesser team, case in example they have beaten UK, Gonzaga, and just a few minutes ago #7 Arizona…. so losing to them on the road without Lee and a healthy Ulis not so bad.
    2. Ohio state: again had the game of their life… honestly they were hitting contested shots from NBA range 3. By the way they are currently 3-0 in the big ten and most likely will be a #8 or 9 seed in the tournament.
    3. LSU: the amount of talent on their team is unbelievable, they just had been underperforming until recently. They went on the road and crushed Vandy and played their best game of the season against us.
    What I am trying to say is that our big guys do suck, we are very young, we are not very deep but our loses are not as bad as they seem. I promise that the 3 teams that we have lost to so far on the road will all be tournament teams come March.

    • rainman
      11:49 pm January 7, 2016 Permalink

      The one thing I would say differently about this is, we’re not done yet! And the real scary part is the common denominator being “ROAD GAMES”, guess what we have many more of them!
      Now if they come out sat, and look like they’re headed in the right direction, I’m sure many of us will have a little sigh of relief. But if they stub their toe again….. who knows!
      I do agree the loses don’t seem as bad now as when they happened, except the final score of the LSU game. But there are signs of meltdown looming!

  14. jonthes
    12:16 am January 8, 2016 Permalink

    I don’t think Skal will ever bulk up enough to be an NBA center, for his own career now he should be used as a forward, his midtrange touch so deadly – and develop a three point shot, he’d be Kyle W. times two.

  15. Bleedblueky
    7:31 am January 8, 2016 Permalink

    Morning Drew, Please ask Matt & Ryan to release the curse they had put on Tyler and I’m sure his three points shooting would be back like magic 🙂

  16. SinceStollField
    8:28 am January 8, 2016 Permalink

    Not sure if Briscoe is the 2 or 3 in the starting lineup, but either way we have one of the worst shooters in the country as our shooting guard or small forward. That’s a big hurdle to overcome.