T.J.’s Takes feature the five key thoughts from Basketball Recruiting Analyst T.J. Walker. The first thought will always be instant analysis on the win or loss and the last will be looking ahead to the next game.
1. The Win: If the growth of this team over the last few days is a sign of how they will improve over the next few months, this team may be in the conversation as one of John Calipari’s best. I know that’s extreme (and we need to see them against good college teams) but I feel like after today’s performance it’s warranted. This group has played against a little bit of everything over these three games. Big teams, physical teams, great passing teams, solid outside shooting teams and a few individual stars, but nothing seems to bother this group. They can play different styles, different speeds and UK is doing it all with different lineups. This team will drop a few games but I’m not so sure the Cats won’t be favorites in nearly every game this year. Maybe dogs at Tennessee? At Auburn? They should definitely be favorites in any neutral court game. Another impressive performance from a team that can seemingly do it all. The sky is the limit, folks.
2. P.J. Washington: Sometimes when a player is so close to leaving for the draft I worry about how motivated they will be when they return to college. It usually isn’t an issue with Calipari but I still had some of my concerns about Washington. Concerns be gone. Washington looks as motivated and pumped up as ever, but you can tell he’s really, really improved. Remember, Washington has missed a decent amount of time because of his finger but he’s still much improved. I was really impressed with his defense tonight and he seems more versatile offensively. I never had too many worries offensively but his improved defense is huge. That will really help because Keldon can’t be UK’s only perimeter defender. He has taken a huge step forward.
3. Star Power: Another concern I had from this group was wondering if they could embarrass opposing teams like the 2015 group often did. And by concerns I mean during the summer I was stretching for weaknesses and had a tough time coming up with anything. I have my answer. I think these teams on the Big Blue Bahamas Tour were slightly over-hyped (I’m guilty of doing it), but the majority of college teams wouldn’t win these games and they certainly wouldn’t win these games with ease. Kentucky is dominating opponents and humiliating them with Top 10 like plays. Dunking on an opposing player can sometimes be more than just a poser dunk. It can cause a team to become intimidated or fold, or at least the individual player. Mega Bemax didn’t seem to want it once UK started dunking all over them.
Also, I’m impressed how quickly this team can put a game away or expand a lead. All it took was a few lackadaisical possessions from Mega Bemax and this game was over. They are going to blitz a lot of college teams and that will be enjoyable.
4. Guards: I have no idea who will start for UK when the season starts and I have no idea who will be UK’s guards that closeout close games. I’m guessing Calipari will do a “hot hand” approach and some of it may be situational. If UK is behind you can go with scorers like Green and Herro. If UK has a slight lead maybe Hagans for defense and Quickley for steady and smart play? We haven’t seen anything to make us eliminate any of the guards up to this point and I doubt we ever do.
I think Hagans has the most potential. He’s fast, athletic and a pest defensively, but all the guards do different things. Green was really, really good in an aggressive role tonight. He’s improved offensively. Quickley just doesn’t make bad plays and we all know how quickly Herro can fill it up.
It seems like the Calipari can’t go wrong but I can’t wait to see how it all shakes out.
5. Moving Forward: Well, so far so good. Let’s see if the Cats can close out the trip against the Toronto team tomorrow. Would anyone blame this team if they had an off night and looked a bit sluggish? It’s August, they’ve only been playing together a few weeks and they’re in the fricking Bahamas doing vacation things in-between basketball. I wouldn’t be shocked, but I’ve also had that in the back of my mind the last few games and it seems Kentucky is only getting better and more dominant.
My guess is we see continued growth and another blowout. Folks, this is a special group. The hype is real. The depth is so important because if one player doesn’t have it one day you know someone else will. Enjoy the ride boys and girls because it’s just the start.