Many were surprised when Kentucky fell to Duke earlier this season. Most were shocked when the Wildcats lost to Notre Dame Thursday night.
Notre Dame was hovering around the top 25, and they will almost certainly be ranked come Monday, but a loss of any kind is a bit worrying for Kentucky.
Kentucky fans are surprised to see their team struggling, in large part because of the great success that the Wildcats had last season.
But this Wildcats team is very different from the team that cut down the nets last March.
And most of those differences are weaknesses that must be sorted out quickly for this year's team to enjoy success.
If John Calipari can get his team to emulate last season’s championship team, then this young Wildcats team can achieve similar success.
Point Guard Play
Poor point guard play is easily the greatest weakness that Kentucky has had this season.
Thus far, no player has shined in the role of distributor. Calipari’s offense is dependent on a solid point guard to keep things flowing (see John Wall, Derrick Rose, etc.).
Last season, Marquis Teague was the unsung hero for the Wildcats. He dished out nearly five assists a game. Most importantly, Teague did a great job in deciding which of Kentucky’s many weapons to hit at the right times.
For Kentucky to dominate, Ryan Harrow will need to step up as the catalyst of this offense.
Harrow transferred from NC State after an impressive freshman season that saw him average 9.3 PPG and 3.3 assists.
After a redshirt season last year when his only responsibility was to learn the offense, Harrow must make good on the expectations of him.
With Harrow at the point guard, Archie Goodwin will be free to move back to his natural position at shooting guard. While Goodwin was busy setting up the offense, his scoring suffered as he only finished with three points.
Freeing up this elite scorer will be an immediate help for the Wildcats.
One of the most evident weaknesses in the Wildcats is their immaturity.
Kyle Wiltjer is the most experienced member in the Kentucky program, and he is only a sophomore.
Last season, senior Darius Miller was able to step up as a leader for the young Wildcats. Sophomore Terrence Jones was also credited with being a vocal leader.
For the Wildcats to improve, Wiltjer must step up as the most senior player in the program and bring the team together in a similar fashion.
If Wiltjer will not be this leader, a freshman such as Nerlens Noel needs to step in and take charge.
Only then will the Wildcats truly be successful as a team.
Finally, Kentucky must also do a better job of rebounding the basketball.
They currently rank 223rd in the nation with just 34 rebounds per game.
This is atrocious for one of the tallest teams in the country.
At 6’10” and 7’ respectively, Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein were both out-rebounded by the 6’9” Jack Cooley alone.
Last season, Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones combined as one of the best rebounding frontcourts in the country, averaging a combined 17.6 RPG.
This season, their replacements are averaging only 12.1 RPG, a clear drop-off.
Kentucky must begin rebounding with the efficiency expected from their talented big men.
With an upcoming test against Baylor, who are 31st in the nation with 39.5 RPG, Kentucky must win the battle on the boards to avoid back-to-back losses.