If there’s one thing more worse than being straight-up bad, it’s being painfully mediocre. Although I wouldn’t go as far as to say the Kentucky Women’s Basketball team was mediocre, they were certainly underwhelming. After being knocked out of the NCAA Tournament in only the second round, the Wildcats’ season needs a closer look.
Wins and losses
To be frank, the Wildcats beat most of the teams they were supposed to, but upset nobody. The team played in 11 top-25 matchups and won five of them. Of Kentucky’s five ranked wins, only one of those teams made it past the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament: Indiana.
In what isn’t a coincidence, Indiana was Kentucky’s first top-25 game of the year. Likewise, Kentucky was Indiana’s first ranked opponent of their season. Indiana was a team that started off slow and got better as the season progressed. Unfortunately for the ‘Cats, their season seemed to move in reverse order. If we’re being honest, the Indiana win could be considered a fluke.
Over the course of the season, the rest of Kentucky’s wins were exposed to be not as impressive as many had thought. Tennessee and Georgia were upset in the second round of the NCAAs, Arkansas was upset by 13-seeded Wright State in their first tournament game, and Mississippi State wasn’t even invited to the big dance.
Truthfully, it was sad to see for this year’s Wildcats. The team never got a shocking victory, an I-told-you-so win, or even a memorable moment. This year the hopes were high for a reason. Due to talented transfers, highly-touted freshmen, and bonafide stars, Kentucky was supposed to be good. Instead, they were begrudgingly acceptable.
Too much talent to not be better
Kentucky’s record was saddening, but the root of the issue was the people behind it. If you looked up the word inconsistent in the dictionary, there’d be a picture of this team.
Especially early on in the season, the Wildcats had moments of greatness. Even an average observer could see flashes of potential; quick glimpses into what this team could be. Unfortunately, that’s all it ever was — what they could be.
The potential of this team never came to fruition. No matter how many long breaks were taken to regain composure, no matter how much dedication to a specific issue was given, the same problems would pop up again like old friends.
Despite having numerous scoring options, the Wildcats struggled all year to have repetitive double-figure scorers other than Rhyne Howard and Chasity Patterson. Each player took their turn in the limelight and then would disappear as quickly as they had stepped up. Whether it was Blair Green, Dre’Una Edwards, KeKe McKinney, or Treasure Hunt, it seemed like it was physically impossible to string together impressive outings.
Role players weren’t the only issue, either. Howard was undeniably fantastic this season, but she had her faults. The All-American always made it look like she was playing at her own pace, whether for better or worse.
Playing at a controlled pace is good until everyone else is running past you down the floor. Howard would simply take breaks at times. The 6-foot-2 superstar surely played a lot, but if you’re not going to give it your all on the court, then get out of the game.
You can be the best player in the world, but sitting in a corner doesn’t help your team. Refusing to step up to the challenge of guarding the opposing best player doesn’t help your team. Settling for three-pointers when nobody can stop the drive doesn’t help your team.
Howard was amazing this year but, she too is not above reproach. Neither is the coaching staff.
Coach Elzy entered the season under unprecedented circumstances. The expectations were high and the time to adjust to being head coach was short. She may have been around Coach Mitchell for years, but stepping into his position was a whole other story.
Coach Elzy was seemingly excellent at inspiring the team but struggled to figure out how to seal up the team’s leaks. Rebounding was essentially a crisis for this team from the first tip-off, yet the crisis was never averted.
Letting opposing teams drive to the basket was kryptonite at the beginning of the year and just as much of a weakness by the end. Although Coach Elzy would make attempts of switching up lineups and defenses, there seemed to always be something missing.
To an extent, players have to play. But, it’s hard to believe there wasn’t more that could’ve been done. Every team in the country has natural issues due to personnel, but not every team allows those issues to fester into fatal flaws.
The season could’ve been much worse, but it definitely could’ve been a lot better. With the majority of the team’s key players returning next season, there are still brighter days in the future.
It’s frustrating to continue to have moral victories, but they will pay off in the long run. This team’s disappointing close to the season can’t be viewed as a wasted opportunity, but a learning experience.
Each individual involved with the team has to drop their pride at the door this offseason and genuinely evaluate themselves. The team has a long way to go before achieving their goals, but it’s not an endless road. If the ‘Cats use this season as motivation to keep chugging along, they’ll inevitably reach their destination.