It might not be a team with a number one overall pick in it, but Kentucky, with John Calipari doing the recruiting, have probably assembled the deepest and most talented team in the nation by far, with ten players that would start on any other squad in the country, unleashing their size and defense on Kansas, walking away with the 72-40 win.
Two basketball juggernauts, and it wasn’t even close. This wasn’t the same Kentucky that slowed it’s way into disappointing through the regular season through the last two years. There’s only one freshman in the starting lineup, and even the notorious second unit, the blue platoon or second line if you want to use hockey terms, isn’t all about freshman. Calipari isn’t just bringing in the best talents in the nation anymore – he’s convincing a lot of them to stay so they improve their draft stock.
A team with the size most NBA teams don’t have doesn’t need one big star to pull them through. They don’t even need too much coaching. The raw talent, combined with athleticism and size, are just too much to not shine. Calipari only needs to stay out of the way.Kansas might have lost a lot of talent over the offseason, but they shouldn’t be looking like a community college team out there, unless everyone is going to look this way against the Wildcats.
Defense was the name of the game in the blowout, as Kentucky improved to 3-0, and surely cemented their bid to remain the number one team in the country, while Kansas, number five before the game, will take a very serious dive. They shot 11-of-56 from the field (19.6%) and had only 12 points in the paint. Dakari Johnson scored 11 points, 10 of them in the paint, almost outscoring them by himself. And he was playing off the bench, as part of the blue platoon.
This was the lowest scoring output for Kansas since 1982, and their biggest loss since losing by 33 points to Oklahoma State in 2000. This wasn’t just a loss to a better team – this was a sign of complete dysfunction, and hopefully for Bill Self, who is now 1-4 when facing John Calipari (beating him in 2008 for the national title when Calipari was the head coach of Memphis), this won’t be something that will take too long to pick up his players from.
We never once did anything that resembled a team offense at all and I hope they were the primary reason why. I knew that we haven’t practiced well or done some things real well, but I didn’t think it would be like this. No matter how bad we shot it the first half we actually proved that we could shoot it a heck of a lot worse in the second.
In terms of the Blue (starting lineup) vs Whie (backups) units? The starters were better on defense. Offensively both had similar numbers: 1.05 points per possession for the starters, 1.06 points per possessions for the backups, who held their opponents to 0.75 points per possession. The starters held Kansas to 2-of-18 from the field when together on the court, allowing only 0.62 points per possession.
Teams tend to get better as the season moves on. Kansas are surely better than scoring just 40 points in a huge, top 5 matchup. But Kentucky? Can they actually improve from this? That’s a scary thought. Obviously, things change when the conference games begin and you have to play in true, hostile atmospheres. Still, if this is just the beginning, it’s hard to see anyone stopping them from having a really impressive, maybe historic, 2015.