The easiest takeaway from the season-opening win vs. Morehead State is that this Kentucky team is really, really long and athletic. On offense, defense, and in transition, the Cats can simply do things that most teams cannot, a trademark of John Calipari’s best squads. Preston Spradlin, who spent five years on Calipari’s staff before going to Morehead State, knows what makes a good Kentucky team. After watching the Cats dismantle his Eagles 81-45, he thinks this group checks all the boxes.
“Yeah, I mean they’re crazy long,” Spradlin said. “They’ve got guys who are interchangeable who are going to meet you at the rim. They’re going to make things and collapse on driving lanes and things like that so that’s going to be a big strength of theirs. Obviously not too many teams in the country are going to have that length and so it depends on what we’ll go through for the rest of the year and we may not see that.”
In the days leading up to the first game, Calipari braced reporters and fans for a sloppy early-going, claiming he had both hands and feet on the panic button. For a group comprised entirely of newcomers (with Keion Brooks out), Kentucky looked pretty smooth Wednesday night, holding the Eagles to the fewest points in a season-opener since the 2014-15 team’s 85-45 win over Grand Canyon. Morehead made only 34% of its shots and committed 20 turnovers, which led to 20 points by Kentucky. The competition obviously goes up from here, starting Sunday with Richmond, but as Spradlin said, the Cats’ athleticism is a nice buffer.
“When you’re not making the correct play at the right time against a team like Kentucky, they’re going to out run their mistakes,” Spradlin added. “They’re still going to be able to contest shots. They’ll meet you at the rim as I said. You’re really going to have to be sharp and willing to execute your offense and share the ball so that you can negate some of that length and we weren’t able to do that tonight.”
Spradlin was so impressed by this Kentucky team he went as far to call them the longest and most athletic group of the Calipari Era in a discussion with Kyle Tucker. From someone who was on the sidelines for Cal’s first five seasons, including the 2011-12 title run, and witnessed the 2014-15 38-1 run with the rest of us, that’s pretty high praise.
“Their length and athleticism, top to bottom, yes. I don’t know that any team is going to be more talented than that 2015 team, when he had 11 starters or whatever it was, but the overall length and athleticism on this team is just extremely hard to prepare for.”
Is it Sunday yet??