Earlier this season VICE Sports praised this Kentucky basketball team following the win over Duke. After beating the Duke by double digits everyone thought that Kentucky was the best team in the country. Since the Champions Classic Kentucky has not been playing very well, even struggling to put away teams like Illinois State.
VICE Sports now breaks down why the Cats are struggling this year with three reasons. Keep in mind this article was written before their game against Arizona State. But, still I think we can agree with all of them.
They Don’t Have Much Three-Point Shooting
At the beginning of the season we thought this team might be one of the best shooting teams in the country. Kentucky is ranked 317th in the country with 28.5% from being the arc. In the UCLA game, Kentucky went 8-25 from the three-point line on mostly wide open looks. Hopefully today’s second half performance against Arizona State becomes more of a norm.
Freshman Jamal Murray is the only one of their starters knocking down perimeter shots and none of their top four big men have shown they can stretch the floor, which allows opposing big men to hang out by the rim and clog up driving lanes.
They Don’t Have A Lot Of Beef Upfront
With a long list of star centers to come through Kentucky, it is hard to see Skal Labissiere struggle so much. Even though Skal lacks the strength we saw in Towns and Cousins and the athleticism of Noel and Davis, there is still plenty of time for him to be great.
Kentucky has traditionally been able to dominate teams in the post, controlling tempo and creating easy shots for their guards, but that’s just not happening this season–Skal gets pushed out of the paint easily and none of their other three big men (Marcus Lee, Isaac Humphries and Alex Poythress) have a very developed back-to-the-basket game.
They Aren’t As Athletic As They Have Been
This team clear doesn’t have the athleticism like John Wall and Eric Bledsoe around the perimeter or Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones in the lane. Murray and Briscoe lack edit speed, while Lee and Labissiere lack edit size that we are so used to seeing.
Labissiere might be the best freshman big man in the country and Jamal Murray might be the best freshman guard, but that doesn’t mean as much as it would in most years. Both have a chance to be high-level NBA players, but if they do it will be the result of skill development, not overwhelming physical tools.