The more this season progresses, the more we learn about just how overrated this Kentucky team is, looking quite less impressive when they face other ranked teams, like Baylor in the most recent example. Julius Randle might be a very special player, but the rest of his teammates and coaches might not be, putting in a poor effort while Baylor dominated the boards and played like a team that knows a lot more about itself than the Wildcats do.
Talent only takes you so far, and John Calipari usually brings together the most talented of Freshman classes. But the further we distance ourselves from the team that won the national title in 2012, it seems that one of the most successful and controversial head coaches in college basketball depends on the talent he gets, without doing too much to improve them along the way.
An example in their 62-67 loss might be just how this team fared when Julius Randle was in trouble. He finished with 16 points and 8 rebounds, but Baylor did a great job when double teaming him. Randle did end up scoring 12 points off these double teams, but the rest of his teammates ended up with only 20, struggling to step up without their big star having a hand in it.
The rest was effort, or at least that’s the way Calipari put it. Maybe it had something to do with bad coaching on his behalf, but he tried to pin it on his players. It’s hard to argue about him knowing what he needs to do in order to bring this team to a higher level come conference play in the SEC, but right now the examples of their big games against Baylor and Michigan State earlier this season prove this team might have talent and athleticism, but not a lot of on-court intelligence.
Baylor outscored Kentucky 26-12 to end the game in the final 13:09, but the signs were on the wall well before. How does a team that shoots 47.1% from beyond the arc and turns the ball over nine times, while Baylor did horribly from outside (18.2% from three), turning the ball over 13 times? Effort, rebounding and defense.
Baylor ended up winning the rebounding battle 41-25, including 18 offensive boards. They grabbed an offensive rebound on 54.5% of their opportunities, mostly through Rico Gathers off the bench with 5 on the offensive glass and Cory Jefferson grabbing four more. The scoring was mostly left to Kenny Chery, scoring 18 points despite his o-for-5 performance from beyond the arc. Kentucky shot 52.2% from the line, which certainly didn’t help, but it seems that right now, there are too many fundamental problems with this team – ball movement, boxing out, rebounding, defense and free throw shooting, to count on them going very far in the NCAA tournament.
They outhustled us. They outworked us. They deserved to win. Three rebounds, four rebounds down the stretch in the last four minutes, we win the game. They got every single one of them. It’s who we are right now. Everything is based on how I’m scoring and what I’m doing, and it’s not based on that part of the game, that toughness.