All is not well in the Commonwealth of Kentucky Wednesday, as college basketball's most loyal state is in mourning after two losses from its two biggest programs—the No. 6 Louisville Cardinals and Kentucky Wildcats.
In Philadelphia, the Cardinals dropped their second straight contest, 73-64, to the back-from-the-dead Villanova Wildcats, who had previously lost three straight games.
Meanwhile, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. the Crimson Tide handed the Wildcats their sixth loss of the season with an impressive victory, 59-55.
The pair of outcomes would be normal to some states, which could care less about college hoops, however, in the Commonwealth, expectations are currently extremely high, and with March slowly creeping closer, both squads have had its most obvious flaws recently exposed.
However, Kentucky basketball fans need to not fret, as regardless of who you root for, both teams will be just fine come March because each of its biggest flaws are fixable and, oddly enough, revolve around the same aspect—leadership.
Kentucky (12-6, 3-2 SEC) needs to find a leader—(cough, cough) freshman guard Archie Goodwin—in late-game situations, while Louisville (16-3, 4-2) needs its leader, guard Peyton Siva, to make better decisions in late-game situations.
After Wednesday's loss, Calipari—who, if he can turn this around, will shake the "he depends on talent not coaching ability" critique—mentioned his team's youth could be a problem.
Well, youth is not an issue when there is a clear-cut leader. Last year, it was Anthony Davis who took over, or led, when UK needed someone to step up. This season, the Wildcats have no idea who to defer to in late-game situations.
They could turn to Nerlens Noel, but because he is an inside guy with a limited offensive game and poor history at the free-throw line (57 percent), he's not the best option—he's a better clean-up guy than a "go-to" guy.
That is why the guy with the ball, who is mainly Goodwin, needs to either take (and make) the big shot or create for somebody else.
Usually, that is what Louisville's Siva does, however, lately he has decided to make costly mistakes in the final few minutes of games. The result: back-to-back losses.
See, when one is named Preseason Big East Player of the Year, it is expected he will make the correct plays when his team needs it. But, lately, Siva has been floundering in tight situations.
In the last two losses with less than three minutes remaining, Siva has scored just four points on four attempts, committed three turnovers and dished out just two assists (both coming at seemingly meaningless times of the game).
Those kind of stats from a leader will make it very hard for any team to pull out a close game.
Luckily, each of these talented programs have a dozen or more games remaining on its regular-season schedule, giving its coaches plenty of time to work on these big flaws—or at least enough time for these flaws to work themselves out.
So, do not fret Kentucky basketball fans because, come March, the health of college basketball in the Commonwealth will be restored, as both the Wildcats and Cardinals will find the leadership they're drastically looking for in time to make a run in the NCAA Tournament.
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