Over the first month and a half of the college basketball season, Julius Randle has been one of the most dominant players in the country. However, this will not continue without help from the rest of the Kentucky roster.
Through 12 games, Randle leads the Wildcats with 18.2 points per game while ranking fifth in the nation with 11.3 rebounds per game. Most recently, the freshman put up 29 points with 10 boards in a win over Belmont.
Despite this most recent performance, the power forward has been slowing down after a hot start. This was especially seen in losses to Baylor and North Carolina when he averaged only 13.5 points, 6.5 rebounds while hitting 42.1 percent of shots.
According to the Lexington Herald (via Seattle Times), when discussing his role on the team, Randle discussed his need to improve:
It’s time to step up and take on leadership. That’s a big thing. Coach wants us to bring energy to the team so if we see a guy with his head down, any of us, we’re checking ourselves. We’re not doing that (getting down) because bad calls are going to happen, we’re going to make bad plays and we’re going to make mistakes.
But you can’t let that affect the team and bring the energy down. You have to continue to have great body language and play hard. Me, personally, I feel like I got a little better. But there’s so much I can work on.
While this is noble for him to take responsibility, the truth is that few of Kentucky's problems should be placed at his feet. In reality, it is the rest of the roster that needs to step up.
One of the Wildcats' biggest weaknesses this season is outside shooting. The squad ranks exactly 217th in college basketball while making 31.7 percent of shots from three-point range.
This is not due to a lack of talent, as Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison and James Young all were known as big-time shooters out of high school. According to Dan Bodner of Kentucky Sports Connection, ESPN's Paul Biancardi had this to say about Aaron Harrison:
However, none of them have been making shots this season. As a result, opposing defenses have little need to respect the outside shot, which has allowed them to crash inside on Randle. He is now facing more double and triple teams than he should.
If these players could live up to expectations, it would clear up more space for the power forward inside.
Of course, this is not the only problem with the Kentucky offense. The team has also done a terrible job of sharing the basketball this season, ranking 202nd in the country in assists per game. No one on the roster creates for others, and this causes the offense to become stagnant at times.
As a result, Randle has to work for almost every single basket instead of getting easy dunks like other big men around the country. For a frontcourt star playing over 30 minutes per game, this expends a lot of energy.
Kentucky has the potential to be an elite team thanks to the big-time talent at every position. However, Randle has become the go-to option in almost every phase of the game. While this has showcased his ability to NBA scouts, it will be almost impossible to carry the squad like this all year long.
The Wildcats need to be more productive to take offensive pressure off of Randle and keep him from burning out. If this happens, the forward will finish the year as one of the most productive players in the country while the squad contends for a national title.
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