Kentucky Basketball: 5 Questions Wildcats Face in 2nd Half of SEC Season
Since putting their season on the brink of collapse back on January 22 with a 59-55 loss at Alabama, the University of Kentucky has ridden a five-game win streak back into a much better outlook for their postseason prospects.
A convincing 87-74 victory on the road against then No. 16 Ole Miss and a thorough 77-55 dismantling of South Carolina were enough to give the Big Blue Nation hope that their Wildcats might have a shot at returning to the Final Four.
Unfortunately, their wins against LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn (all teams with far less talent than UK) were incredibly shaky and still left a lot of issues on the table as to just how good this team will be when March rolls around.
The following are five major questions the Wildcats will face in the second half of the SEC schedule.
All stats via ESPN.com
1. Who Is Their Go-to Scorer?
This is a topic I already covered a little over a month ago, but the Wildcats are still no closer to finding a consistent go-to scorer than they were back then.
Kyle Wiltjer has seemed to have the hot shooting hand of late off the bench, but he's still a few more solid games away from being declared the primary scorer for the Cats. And even if he was, Kentucky would still need someone who could score in the post, an area that is not Wiltjer's strong suite.
If Archie Goodwin can get his game under control or Alex Poythress can regain his confidence on offense, than the Wildcats will be in good shape. Until then, the matter of who will be the team's primary scorer is still very much up in the air.
2. How Deep Does the Bench Really Go?
While Kyle Wiltjer is making a very strong case for Sixth Man of the Year, the rest of the bench is still a bit of a question mark for this team.
Willie Cauley-Stein can almost always be counted on for quality minutes (when he's not put into the "Twin Towers" starting lineup with Nerlens Noel).
Jarrod Polson struggles mightily with defending elite guards, but he's not going to see very many during the remaining SEC schedule (with Florida being the obvious exception). Against average competition, he can be counted on to make a solid contribution off the bench.
I still think that Jon Hood can be utilized to give the younger players a veteran presence on the floor, but he's only had two minutes of floor time since getting a chance to contribute in UK's win over Ole Miss on January 29.
3. What Happened to Alex Poythress' Offense?
Early in the season, Alex Poythress seemed unstoppable on offense. But lately, he's had a habit of completely disappearing in games, particularly in the second half.
In Kentucky's last three games, Poythress has averaged a little over six points. He's managed to reach double figures other times before that, but not with the consistency or explosiveness that we saw back in November and December.
If Poythress can find that part of his game again, the Wildcats will be a very tough team to beat in March.
4. Can Archie Goodwin Get His Game under Control and Find His Rhythm?
Archie Goodwin is turning the ball over a little less these days, but he still hasn't consistently shown the explosive offensive potential that he's capable of.
Following his great 24-point performance against then No. 16 Ole Miss on January 29, Goodwin has gone ice cold from the floor. Against Auburn on Saturday, he was 1-of-6 with only three points.
If the Wildcats are going to make a run through their SEC schedule to improve their tournament seeding, Goodwin will need to find his stroke again and take better care of the basketball.
5. Do They Have Enough Quality Games Left, and Will They Win Them?
Despite the Florida Gators being taken down a peg with their embarrassing 80-69 loss to Arkansas on February 5, they are still a very good basketball team.
The Wildcats will get two chances to play them (February 12 and March 9), along with a February 23 matchup against No. 21 Mizzou that are really the only chances for "quality" wins that they have left on their schedule.
If the Wildcats lose any one of those games, they jump right back on the NCAA tournament bubble. If they lose against any of the other teams left on their SEC schedule, than winning the SEC championship won't just be a goal, it will be the ONLY way they'll get into the Big Dance.
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