Kentucky Basketball: Marquis Teague Is Key to an NCAA Tournament Run

Matt OveringContributor IIIJanuary 23, 2012

LEXINGTON, KY - JANUARY 07:  Marquis Teague #25  of the Kentucky Wildcats dribbles the ball during the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Rupp Arena on January 7, 2012 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Marquis Teague has been the subject of almost all Big Blue Nation criticism this year.

This is in large part because of the tradition of excellence Kentucky has set forth in the three years John Calipari has been coach in Lexington.

There's no question that John Wall and Brandon Knight are tough acts to follow. This is what has hurt Teague the most—the expectation of being a great point guard like the two that preceded him. Couple that with the promise that Teague would be as good as his brother, Jeff Teague, and you get a losing situation for the Kentucky point guard no matter what.

After the first game of the year against Marist, it seemed as though Marquis Teague would be another great point guard, notching 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting. His next three games, however, would leave much to be desired. Through those three games, Teague turned the ball over 15 times to only seven assists.

That has widely been the norm for Teague this year—he shows glimpses of a great guard some games, and other games, he leaves you shaking your head. His impressive ability to break down defenses some games is overshadowed by his erratic play in others.

Although Teague's inconsistency is no doubt hampering Kentucky's ability to execute on offense on a regular basis, losses have not been a product. Teague has benefited from having such a balanced team around him, and in the games he performs well, Kentucky seems unstoppable. 

Teague's most recent quality game came against Arkansas, where he posted seven points, nine assists, and only three turnovers. I loved this game by No. 25 because he shot only four times, and almost all of them came late in the shot clock. This is what Teague's stat line should look like every night.

This Kentucky team doesn't need a point guard to score 17 points per game (Wall averaged 16.6, Knight 17.3). They need a point guard who can get the offense started, break down the defense and either kick to an open shooter or dish to Anthony Davis for a dunk. That's what Marquis Teague did against Arkansas, and Kentucky had one of their most efficient offensive performances of the year that game (57.1 percent from the field).

From here, Teague needs to produce more games where he looks to pass first and score second. His play is of utmost importance to Kentucky if they expect to have a long tournament run. Efficiency on offense is vital in the postseason. Every possession matters in the NCAA tournament. Just last year, Kentucky won by two (twice) and lost by one in the Final Four.

Teague doesn't need to be a superstar. For Kentucky to succeed late in the year and late in games, they need a trustworthy point guard who can get them in an offense and allow Kentucky's scorers to score.

All of Big Blue Nation expected Marquis Teague to be a superstar. I'm sure they would settle for an NCAA championship.