After some early struggles, it’s looking more and more like Kentucky is the team everyone thought they’d be before the season began. But are they a title contender? Everyone reading this is yelling, “YES!” at their phone or computer right now, but ESPN’s Jeff Borzello put Kentucky just outside his list of six teams that have the best chance of winning it all: Tennessee, Duke, Virginia, Gonzaga, Michigan, and Michigan State.
Not including the Cats in that group seems ludicrous to me, but Borzello argues that Kentucky’s perimeter shooting could keep them from winning it all, a sentiment shared by an unnamed SEC assistant.
Now that Hagans has shored up the point guard spot, the biggest potential weakness for Kentucky is its perimeter shooting. Johnson is the lone player on the roster shooting better than 40 percent from behind the arc, and Herro is the only other one with more than one made 3 per game this season.
They have begun to look a little better from the perimeter in recent weeks, shooting 40 percent or better in three of their past four games. In the Wildcats’ three losses, though, they shot a combined 14-for-55 from 3-point range.
“They don’t shoot it consistently enough from the outside, outside of Herro and Johnson,” an SEC assistant said. “You have to be able to make shots to make a deep run.”
Between PJ Washington, Immanuel Quickley, and Jemarl Baker, I think the Cats will be fine in that area, but it was nice to see another SEC coach give Calipari praise for the job he’s done this season.
Kentucky also has a top-10 defense nationally and has allowed just four teams to score one point per possession or better since the Duke debacle.
“It’s because of Cal,” one SEC coach said. “It’s his ability to get his guys to defend, compete, rebound at a high level. And when it comes to the tournament, defense travels.”
That’s what we’re counting on.