The Blue team defeated the White squad in a scrimmage where players switched teams and there was a running clock. The game itself may have been meaningless but there were several takeaways as the Cats can finally look forward to new competition later this week when they host Transylvania on Friday.
Here are five takeaways from the Blue/White scrimmage:
1. UK’s good:
Really, really good. The biggest takeaway from Sunday’s scrimmage is UK has an incredible amount of talent and will be one of the deepest teams in college basketball. We knew that in the summer, it was confirmed during the Bahamas trip and we had another reminder just a handful of days before the season starts. Kentucky will play nine guys and I don’t think there’s a significant drop-off among the nine. We saw UK thrive in nearly every facet of the game. The Cats were sharp in transition, we saw interior scoring, UK was spectacular on the perimeter and there was a healthy blend of attacking the basket and smart pull-up jumpers. UK’s shooting was really impressive tonight. The defense looked sharp at times and I was surprised/impressed with UK’s shot blocking. It’s tough to find too many weaknesses from tonight.
2. Nine deep:
Like I mentioned, Quickley, Hagans, Green, Herro, Johnson, Montgomery, Washington, Travis and Richards are going to play this season. Also, there’s a chance Baker could, too. I think he’s behind the other nine, but that’s not overly fair to say because we’ve seen so little of his game. It was cool to see him on the court finally playing and he has a great looking jumper.
When UK tried the platoon experiment back in 2014-2015, the Cats were deep but it was different than this year. There were a few players that were clearly not as good as some of their teammates, but they weren’t liabilities so they played. Out of those nine players I don’t think there’s a major weakness. Richards may be slightly behind the other three bigs, but he’s the best shot blocker and no slouch offensively. All nine are going to play and all nine can bring something different to this team.
Upsets happen in college basketball but I have a tough time believing that UK won’t be able to find five out of those nine guys that are ready to play on any given night.
I’m not sure how this will all play out because some players will progress differently than others as the season goes, but several UK players had flashes of taking over the scrimmage. They weren’t for the longest periods but Travis, Herro, Johnson, Washington and Montgomery all had stretches where they looked like “the guy”. Other players had nice runs, too.
I’m not sure how opposing teams will defend Kentucky. Tyler Herro’s stretches are the most mesmerizing because he can score from anywhere on the floor, but the other players takeovers were equally as dominant. There is going to be a time (hopefully several) where it all clicks and UK will beat a team by 40+.
UK scored a combine 200 points, but also allowed 200 points. I don’t put much stock in defense in a scrimmage because the players are playing the entire time, there’s no subs and you don’t want to be too aggressive/physical in a meaningless game. So, why it was offensively oriented I still like what I saw from the defense. UK’s shot blocking was impressive and maybe slightly surprising, but the Cats were also good on the perimeter. The guards really couldn’t penetrate on the other guards, the wings had more success attacking other wings/guards, but the guards did a great job defending their opponents. We’ve always labeled Hagans as the elite defender but I was actually more impressed with Quickley’s defense tonight. Both can be really, really good on that end. Hagans will cause more turnovers because he’ll take more gambles, but Quickley is steady and doesn’t get beaten off the dribble.
I said the wings had more success attacking and that could be somewhat concerning. UK won’t defend too many elite wings this season, but their first game against Duke will feature three of the best wings in college basketball. Calipari said not too long ago that Herro was ahead of Johnson defensively. We all took it as coachspeak to try and motivate Johnson, but Cal may not be too far off. That’s good news for Herro but still a little concerning for Johnson, who I thought would be a phenomenal defender.
5. Moving Forward:
No more scrimmages! Well, kinda. UK still has two more exhibition games but at least it’s against new competition and players that don’t know Kentucky’s plays or tendencies. The next two Friday’s UK will host exhibitions. First is Transylvania this week and then it’s Indiana University of Pennsylvania seven days later (then Duke the following Tuesday!). Kentucky should win both those games by 30+, but it will be a good chance for UK to continue to grow and be as polished as possible when they face Duke.
It’ll likely be nothing but positives again in the exhibitions, so the most important thing over the next two weeks is to stay healthy.