This has been quite a depressing few weeks for the Cats. They have lost 4 games in a row and have done so in all kinds of ways. There have been complete no-shows, complete collapses, and complete mental breakdowns but what there hasn’t been is a complete game. I think they almost got that at Auburn but the end game performance so was dreadful that it ruined the rest of the game. This is about as down as the fanbase has been on any team in the Calipari era and you rarely hear anything positive during call-in shows.
But are there actually things we do quite well. I dug through as many of the NCAA stats as I possibly could and actually found 7 statistical categories that Kentucky ranks in the Top 50 nationally right now:
3-Point FG Defense: 29.1% (3rd nationally)
Free Throw Attempts: 643 (11th nationally)
Free Throws Made: 441 (22nd nationally)
Blocked Shots: 5.1 per game (26th nationally)
Field Goal Percentage Defense: 40.9% (36th nationally)
Rebounds per Game: 38.8 per game (42nd nationally)
Rebound Margin: 4.7 (49th nationally)
So what can we take from all of this? First of all, 5 of those 7 stats above are defensive stats (rebounding is primarily a defensive stat). So it’s clear that UK has its moments where it is an elite defensive team. Sometimes it is hard to believe seeing how often our guys get beat off the dribble and lost on pick and rolls, but teams are shooting very poorly against the Cats on average this year. And UK is doing a really good job of rebounding off those misses.
But on the flip side, UK is basically only good at getting to the free throw line on the offensive end. They don’t shoot it well from the outside or inside. They turn the ball over at a fairly high clip. Their assist-turnover is pretty average. And while they are getting the line at a very high rate, they don’t shoot it at a particularly high percentage.
So what’s the point? If this team is going to make any kind of noise moving forward, I think they are going to do it in ugly, defensive games. Playing games in the 50’s and 60’s might be this team’s best best. That is not the Calipari way, which typically focuses on attacking. And I’m not sure he’s going to change that mentality on a whim, even if it means a higher chance of winning. We will see how this all plays out but keep in mind that this team doesn’t stink at everything. They are actually pretty good at some things. Now can they focus on those things for the remainder of this season or not?