Kentucky's John Wall the Difference Between National Title and Early NCAA Exit
Two 20-minute halves of basketball against last year's national champion is all Kentucky needed to demonstrate why it could be North Carolina's 2010 counterpart.
In that same 40 minutes of basketball, the Wildcats also showed the country why they could bust everybody's bracket and fall in second round as a No. 2 seed.
The single factor that creates Kentucky's dichotomy is the nation's most exciting player since Kevin Durant: John Wall.
The good John Wall is the Wall Big Blue Nation will likely see much more often throughout the season. The version Kentucky fans want to see is a player that is literally unstoppable in the open court.
After North Carolina jumped out to a 9-2 lead, Wall energized the Wildcats' fast break, operating in transition as effectively as Chris Paul. The Kentucky freshman took over the game, leading UK to a 28-2 run to move ahead 30-11.
His play during this stretch was something rarely ever seen in the college game. Most collegiate players lack the ability to control their body when handling the ball at full speed.
Wall should laugh at the idea of not being able to control his body while at full speed with two defenders between he and the basket. Twice the freshman made two of the best open-court plays you'll ever see in college basketball.
Wall made a nifty move around the free throw, side stepped a defender, and then shifted the ball in mid-air to his other hand for a left-handed lay-up.
Not too long after Wall's first highlight-reel moment, he did it again. The aftermath wasn't quite like this (20 second mark for full effect), but you'll get the idea:
But Wall was able to get to the basket again, this time staying to the right side of the basket before ducking under the hoop for a reverse lay-up.
That's an NBA move. College kids don't do that.
Then again, in terms of basketball maturity, John Wall isn't a kid.
Wall's ability in the open court blew up Roy Williams' game plan.
"We talked about slowing him down and getting some help from our point guard, and I feel like we didn't do a very good job of that," Williams said "But, we didn't do a very good job of getting our point guards some help. He really attacks you as a guy with long arms and quickness."
Wall's dominating first half—13 points and 5 assists—showed how much he change a game.
Wall also dramatically changes the game when he leaves the court.
That's somewhat of a "no-duh" statement, but it became apparent in the second half when his only mistake and weakness almost cost Kentucky the game.
Apparently, Wall didn't eat much for breakfast. Some bacon and fruit was all Wall ate, leading to leg cramps.
Not eating a proper breakfast—rookie mistake, right?
When Wall cramped, he need a quick IV.
"They brought him in and put the IV in because John doesn't like needles," coach John Calipari said. "So they had to go to the crowd to get his mom so that she could talk to him and rub his head a little bit and they could put the IV in. That is why it took so long."
Wall denied needing his mom, but mom or no mom, he was off the court longer than Calipari and Wall would have liked.
While the freshman stud was in the locker room, North Carolina made a run.
When Wall returned, he wasn't the same dynamic player like in the first half—but his presence was enough to slow the bleeding.
Kentucky wasn't good enough defensively without Wall or even with a sluggish Wall to make up for the fact the Wildcats are still struggling to find an offensive identity when Wall can't be a game changer.
Even with Kentucky's loaded freshman class and outstanding power forward, Patrick Patterson, the Wildcats aren't a Final Four team or anything close to it without Wall.
Luckily for Kentucky, there probably won't be too many times down the road Wall cramps up after poor breakfast.
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