Kentucky Basketball: Why Kyle Wiltjer Needs to Play Even When He's Ice Cold

Bobby ReaganSenior Analyst IINovember 30, 2016

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 31:  Kyle Wiltjer #33 of the Kentucky Wildcats reacts after making a three-pointer in the first half against the Louisville Cardinals during the National Semifinal game of the 2012 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on March 31, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Most 6'10" college basketball players get taken out for even thinking about taking a shot behind the arc. However, most college basketball players aren't Kyle Wiltjer. 

Wiltjer, a sophomore for Kentucky, was expected to break out this year after being stuck behind a loaded rotation on last year's national championship team. However, after starting the season by scoring 19 points to defeat Maryland in Brooklyn, his shooting has cooled down.

After shooting 43 percent from the three-point line last year, he is down to just under 35 percent this year. Despite his shooting woes, it is vital for head coach John Calipari and Kentucky to keep Wiltjer on the floor. 

Most importantly, when Wiltjer is on the court, opposing defenses are forced to respect his ability to step back and shoot. With his man being more hesitant to help off of Wiltjer, it leaves an open lane for slashers like Archie Goodwin, Ryan Harrow and Alex Poythress to get to the rim. 

It also makes Calipari's dribble drive motion offense more fluid. The dribble drive is based off of four common sets in the half court—two-guard front, five out set, 1-1-2 set and a 2-2-1 set.

All four sets are based on having one post player with four players on the perimeter. 

With freshman Nerlens Noel occupying the post, it is necessary to have a player like Wiltjer playing outside. It is the most ideal lineup for the Wildcats as they either have to go with two centers in Noel and fellow freshman Willie Cauley-Stein, or they are forced to go small with Poythress playing the four spot and three guards. 

Wiltjer, beside being a three-point specialist, has a wide array of post moves. With Calipari's offense having the 4 spot dive to the post as well as being able to take his man off the dribble, it's important to have the diversity Wiltjer brings to the court. 

Another main reason to have Wiltjer on the court is he is a shooter. Shooters go in slumps at some points in their careers and Wiltjer can chalk up the slow start to just that.

Once he gets back in the rhythm he was in the last season, Kentucky's offense becomes even more dangerous. Teams will be forced to make the decision and Wiltjer has a quick enough shot to get it off on the drive and kick pass.

A lot of fans, especially the country's most rabid in Big Blue Nation, see a missed shot and assume it hurts the team. But remember UK fans, Wiltjer is different. Embrace his talent and watch the offense start to click as the season goes on.