[Moderated by Matt Jones]
I understand that the Cats knocked off the Vols last night, but we can all agree that it still doesn’t look pretty. Tonight’s game was close from start to finish, yet it was still pretty boring to watch. The only times I can recall getting out of my seat were when Archie Goodwin almost posterized someone and after Julius Mays hit back-to-back threes. I wasn’t the only one bored throughout the game. How many times did we see the 24,000 at the game get on their feet and get excited? Not very many. These first three SEC games have been EXTREMELY hard to watch. I know we can all agree on that one. So now we’re all wondering: what is going on with this team? Why are we struggling with mediocre teams? No one seems to know the answer just yet. It’s understandable that this very young team is still trying to come together, but I at thought we would have at least seen some improvement with it already being mid-January. It honestly seems as if this team is playing worse than they were at the beginning of the season. This team took top five Duke down to the wire and is now struggling with mediocre SEC teams at home. I don’t know what the problem is, but it is time to find the solution.
Talent is clearly not the problem. This team is loaded with talent just as the teams in the past were. This team may not be as good as last year’s team or the two before that, but we can all agree that this team should not have five losses this early in the season. If you look back at the recent teams, they’ve all had that “we’re the best and we know it” swagger. John Wall making defenders look stupid and then saluting to the crowd. DeMarcus Cousins telling the Mississippi State student section to call him after a made bucket. Doron Lamb, Terence Jones, and Brandon Knight throwing up the 3 goggles after every made three pointer. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist smiling and getting emotional after a big play. It’s simple: those teams won games and they had a hell of a time doing it. I’ve never seen teams have as much fun as those three teams did. Where are the smiles and emotions from this team? Alex Poythress dunks on someone and just jogs back to the defensive end. I understand that it’s a serious game, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun. This team has played tight all season. It’s time to loosen up and enjoy playing the game that you love. Emotions are contagious; if one smiles and is having fun, then they all have fun; ask John Wall. I’m not saying that because this team isn’t smiling, they aren’t playing well. I’m just saying that this team should be having fun out there. Give the home fans something to cheer about. Get the fans on their feet and own that court like it should be and has been owned.
One reason Poythress may not be smiling after a dunk is because he realizes he is capable of doing that every single game. If you look at his numbers, they’re solid. But if you watch the games, you will struggle to find him on the court. I’ve heard people say that Poythress has the potential to be an all-american, and I’ve actually heard a few people say that “maybe the Poythress we are seeing is the real Alex Poythress”. I agree with the majority and believe this kid has the talent to be the best college basketball player in the nation. He’s a freak athlete; he can run, jump, handle the ball, shoot, drive, and play great defense. We’ve all seen those parts of his game at one point, but we’ve never seen him put it all together. He’s missing that killer instinct. We’ve seen that killer instinct come out for a few minutes at a time, but not for a full 40 minutes. Mr. Poythress, we saw what you did to Duke in that small span. Think about how good this team could be if he played like that for a full game. That killer instinct would be contagious and hopefully rub off on the rest of the squad.
I’ve also heard that this team is missing a leader. That is something I disagree with. Night in and night out, Nerlens Noel is the hardest working player on the floor. He’s trying to lead by example, but not everyone is following his lead. I understand that he’s a freshman, but other than last year’s team, a freshman led those elite eight and final four teams. We can all agree that John Wall and Brandon Knight were the leaders of their teams. Honestly, I felt like MKG was last year’s leader, but he had some upperclassmen to help out. This team doesn’t have a Doron Lamb, Terence Jones, or Darius Miller. Someone had to step up and try to lead this team. Archie Goodwin seemed to literally try and put the team on his back in a couple of games, and that proved to not be the answer. I feel that Nerlens Noel has really stepped up and has become the leader of this team.
One thing I noticed during last night’s game was our full court pressure. In my opinion, I think we should see more of that. This team is full of athletes that want to run on teams. They like to force turnovers, get out in transition, and dunk on teams; and I believe that is when that Cats are at their best. When opponents slow us down and make us play a half-court game, we really struggle. I love Nerlens and WCS, but they aren’t good post players. We all know that. They are the types of big men that block shots on the defensive end and then catch an alley-oop on the other end. This Kentucky team cannot play a half-court game, and that’s very obvious, given that our losses have come from teams that played a zone. A successful scouting report for this team is way too predictable. Take it at Wiltjer on offense and play a zone on defense. Adjustments are going to have to be made for this team to be successful.
Like I’ve said, talent isn’t the problem. This team has the talent to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament; but we have to get there first. Talent alone isn’t going to cut it, and this team needs to realize that. Who knows what the problem may be. But whatever it is, it’s time to figure it out. I’ve got faith in this team, I really do. I’ve told multiple people that I think we’re a final four team and I stand by that statement. I know it’s possible, but a lot of work is going to have to be done. I’m extremely excited to see what the rest of this season has in store. It’s a long way til March. Stay tuned, Big Blue Nation. I’ve got a good feeling about this team.
If you need someone new to follow, here’s the link.. @Austin_AG_KSR
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