Kentucky Basketball: Why It's Time to Hit the Panic Button
A time to panic is a very relative thing when it comes to sports. In most cases, having a talented team that should be good enough by the end of the year to make the NCAA tournament and make some noise is the result of a pretty good season.
But when you're Kentucky (and getting to the Final Four is pretty much expected), the Wildcats' last few games are more than enough to make you very worried. There is no way that this team will end up being "bad" (by almost any definition that you can think of), but the chances of them repeating as national champions are looking pretty slim unless something drastically changes.
Unrest at the point guard position
The first and most obvious reason for the Wildcats' issues this year is at point guard. While I agree with fellow Kentucky columnist/beard model Matt Overing that Ryan Harrow should be supported by the Big Blue Nation, it doesn't change the fact that his absence in games and practice has made getting the offense in sync an even more monumental task with this very young team.
Archie Goodwin is an incredible athlete, but that is in relation to his abilities as a scorer and shooting guard. The kid hadn't even really played the point guard position in the last four years, which when combined with his control issues, makes it almost impossible for UK to run its offense the way it wants to. Unless you are Dwayne Wade, you can't simply throw yourself into the lane and launch the ball at the basket while hoping for a score and/or foul.
It should also be noted that Kentucky's poor shooting over the last few games isn't a result of a lack of effort or ability; it's due to poor shot selection...which is exacerbated exponentially when the offense isn't being run the way it should be.
One things UK fans seem to forget is that for the last three years, John Calipari has had an elite-level point guard running the show. All the reports coming out of practice from last year were that Harrow would be that for this year's team, but that hasn't happened yet, and so far, Goodwin is not the answer.
Looking for the go-to guy
The other issue with putting Archie Goodwin at the point is that it takes away what might be your best scoring option. Alex Poythress looked like he was beginning to emerge as the Wildcats' new go-to scorer, but this team still hasn't really found/settled on their main scoring option.
If Harrow can stay healthy and take control of the point the way everyone thought he would this season, then it puts Goodwin back at shooting guard, where he is by far the most effective.
One thing that Wildcat fans got used to (and spoiled by) last year was Anthony Davis' incredible defensive presence. It wasn't just that he was a great shot blocker; he was also a hunter.
Davis moved into position to block and disrupt shots before they happened, which wreaked havoc on opposing offenses and gave the rest of the Wildcats' defense a huge edge.
Nerlens Noel, however, is by no means behind the curve on this. In fact, compared to most NCAA freshmen, he is pretty far ahead of it. But if you are going to make the (very unfair) comparison between him and Anthony Davis, then this team is far behind last year's.
They are also very reactionary on defense, in general. What many fans mistake for lack of effort or hustle is really just a team of young players that are reacting to the opposing offense rather than attacking it. The only way that will change is through maturity and confidence. While maturity will happen with time, confidence is currently in very short supply.
That confidence will start when the Wildcats have a stable floor leader and feel like their stops on defense will turn into baskets on offense. Once again, that starts and ends with the point guard position.
Maybe things will improve if/when Harrow gets himself back on track.
Maybe Calipari will prove me wrong (which isn't very hard to do) and turn Goodwin into a point guard like he did with Tyreke Evans at Memphis.
Whatever happens, it needs to happen soon if Kentucky wants to develop the cohesion and chemistry necessary for another run at the title.
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