The past three seasons, it's have been frustrating to watch Kentucky basketball. The teams struggled to high seeds in the NCAA Tournament year after year, and never made it past the first weekend. Some of those teams were marked by unrealized potential, some by lack of talent, but there was never a point where I just didn’t like the team. Unfortunately, after watching today’s 60-53 loss in the final regular season game, that’s exactly where I am.
They have taken the joy out of watching Kentucky basketball for me, and I think that that’s about as strong as an indictment of a team as there possibly be made. I honestly don’t know if I even want to watch the ‘Cats when they face off against Alabama in the first round of the SEC Tournament next Thursday.
It hasn’t happened without some serious effort. This is a team headlined by two of my favorite UK players I have watched, Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson. Both are extremely talented and work tirelessly, but they way they have played toward the end of the season suggests to me that the joy of playing Kentucky basketball has been beaten out of them. That is a pretty strong indictment of both the coach and their teammates.
Part of me wants to look to Meeks and Patterson for some of the blame for the collapse of the past eleven games, but you can’t ask them to be something they are not (chippy players) and they have maintained their effort all season.
I’m sure you’ll hear all the right things out of Meeks and Patterson after the game That their goal is still to win the SEC Tournament and that they will turn it around. You’ll hear the right things because they are the kind of guys you want representing your program. However, I just don’t think they will believe it, and I know I certainly won’t.
UK’s recent play has done nothing but raise questions about the way Billy Gillispie coaches, about whether Meeks and Patterson will bolt for the NBA, about roster changes that need to be made, about potential transfers. What that means is that this offseason is going to be absolutely crucial to the short term future of Kentucky basketball. Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be delving into those questions into some more depth, but as of right now, there is more basketball to be played (unfortunately).
It’s hard for me to try to analyze this game from a X’s and O’s perspective with all of these bigger issues swirling, but I’ll at least make an attempt at evaluating what happened today.
First of all, unlike the Florida game in Lexington, it was not Nick Calathes who terrorized UK...it was UK who terrorized UK. Look no further than the 23 turnovers and the general inability to adjust to Florida’s matchup zone as the reason UK lost. Basically the only way UK scored today was off of offensive rebounds or the occasional transition bucket. Billy Gillispie had to know how Florida was going to play defense, but UK looked surprised and discombobulated by Florida’s defensive all game. That’s inexcusable.
Nick Calathes was held to only five points after scoring a career high 33 in the first matchup. He also had as many turnovers as assists (7). Ramon Harris and Darius Miller did a pretty nice job on him, but yet another opponent of UK killed the ‘Cats from three, shooting 8-21 from deep. That number may not look that good, but they started off very hot, and by the time they cooled, they had established a comfortable lead that stayed between five and 12 the entire second half. Walter Hodge, in particular, did damage in his final regular season game as a Gator. Hodge scored 18 points, including 3-5 from deep, in his 24th game against UK (OK, it was only his eigth).
UK was down 11-4 after a Calathes three with 16:46 left, and UK would get no closer than five the rest of the way. Frankly, it never felt like they ever had a chance. They did have the ball down six on a couple of occasions late, but, unsurprisingly, their attempts to get any closer were undone by turnovers.
I was surprised by the bracket experts when they said UK still had a shot at an at-large bid after the terrible Georgia loss, but that loss ends that conversation. UK is going to need to beat Alabama (who is playing very well), LSU, then likely South Carolina, then whoever comes out of the other bracket. I would be surprised by a single UK win in the SEC Tournament, so, needless to say, this is highly unlikely. Tomorrow night or Monday, I’m going to be breaking down the action in Tampa team by team with predictions, so keep an eye out.
Before then, my grades will just have to tide you over.
Turnovers/Point guard play: F (last game B)
UK was out of sorts all day on offense, and it did not matter who was running the show. Also of note, DeAndre Liggins did not play at all, and I will be surprised if he returns next season. I have no facts or inside info, but based on what I have observed, I think he’s bolting as soon as his classes are done.
Key Stat-Assist to turnover ratio: 7:23 (4:5 for Porter, Liggins, and Galloway) (last game 14:13 and 4:6 for Porter, Liggins, and Galloway)
Rebounding: B (last game F)
They outrebounded Florida 39-28, and their best offense was a Patterson offensive board.
Key Stat-Defensive rebounding percentage (defensive rebounds/opponent FG missed + opponent FT missed x100): (24/33+3)x100=66.7% (last game 53.1%)
Getting the ball to Patterson: C+ (last game C-)
Patterson got the ball plenty in the first half, and refused to dunk the ball on a few occasions, costing UK points. In the second half, he took only one shot after taking 16 in the first.
Key Stat-FGA+FTA-offensive rebounds by Patterson: 17+4-8=13 (last game 11)
Secondary scoring: C (last game A-)
Ramon Harris scored 14 on 6-8 shooting, benefiting from the fact that Florida barely guarded him. Perry Stevenson and Kevin Galloway scored four each, but no one else scored.
Key Stat-Percentage of points scored by Meeks and Patterson: 16+15/53=58.5% (last game) 43.5%