If there were a basketball equivalent to “three yards and a cloud of dust,” then it was on display last night is Rupp. As I uncomfortably shifted in my cramped seat, beside the worse case of thunder-thighs since Serena Williams got off the juice, I struggled to find an ounce of optimism in Kentucky’s yawn of a performance…Until I got home and found that Kansas lost to school named for a televangelist, and UNC narrowly escaped the clutches of Winthrop.
It’s the first game of the season folks, and when you have three freshmen logging over 20 minutes of action, sometimes you simply have to take a dubya at face value. While it certainly wasn’t the confidence inducing drubbing we had all hoped for, there is still some salvageable silver lining.
Joe Crawford: Sleeker, tougher, happier, and smarter. Joe C also looks vastly improved with his handle, and his passing as well. It even appears that he’s getting more elevation on his jumpers, placing himself at a virtually unblockable Dirk Nowitzky-type height. He certainly wasn’t timid, and appears well suited for his newfound role as a leader.
Jodie Meeks: Like the Intern is afraid of commitment, most freshmen are hesitant to ‘let-loose’ in the early stages of the season. Meeks, however, isn’t your typical frosh. He rebounds, defends, and looks to exploit any advantage he’s given on offense. This is crucial, as looking down the bench, we’ll need a lot more than hustle out of the rookie.
Perry Stevenson: Obviously.
Overall: Kentucky did yield several open looks to Miami, but I was very impressed with their on-the-ball D. The rotations and help will come with time, but good pressure D is something that’s much more difficult to teach; you either have it, or you don’t. Meeks, Crawford, Bradley, and Jasper all showed that they can glue it up.
Of course, the obvious negative is the offense. Eventually, this team (Smooth) will figure out that in a half-court set, the ball has to go through Morris. If he’s not doubled, you have to find a way to get in there. This perimeter passing with no cuts or rolls is not only painful to watch, but is highly ineffective. Although the score certainly wouldn’t indicate, UK did shoot over 40%, but rarely was there a play ran to get an open look. I find solace in the fact that offense is almost always the last thing to come around on a young team embarking on a new season, but I am not pleased with the same ‘pass and stand around’ scheme. I know I’m putting Barbaro in a sharp-shooter here, but this team has to run, and run often, if we’re going to compete for the SEC.
And in case anyone missed it, none other than Anthony Munoz played the role as the ‘Y’ last night. Anyone else find this totally random? Should we expect to see Jumbo Elliot on Friday? Oh well, I guess you have to save the Ashley Judd’s, Richie Farmer’s, and Jared Lorenzen’s for the big dogs.