DeAndre Ayton‘s arrival at Arizona made Sean Miller’s initial trip to the Last 4 seem to be feasible and probably probable come April. Grayson Allen and Miles Bridges experienced returned to torch the subject anew. Kansas and Villanova entered the year stacked with the expertise to reach the past weekend yet again.
But exactly where was the perennial, they-could-win-it-all buzz for the Kentucky Wildcats?
John Calipari experienced assembled a different flock of five-stars — per the norm — but Kevin Knox and P.J. Washington hadn’t been welcomed by the masses with the adoration that normally accompanies Kentucky freshman courses.
Tuesday’s Champions Typical available the Wildcats a likelihood to demonstrate they can dance with the most effective, even even though they deficiency showstoppers like De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, past season’s cell phone-a-buddy heroes who constantly seemed to bail the squad out.
In its place, the Wildcats emerged as a younger workforce with probable but no proven catalyst. No John Wall or Karl-Anthony Cities or Devin Booker. No give-him-the-ball-and-we’re-good participant they could find in a restricted activity.
Kentucky’s 65-61 reduction to Kansas highlighted a 3-for-13 hard work from the 3-position line, a 12-for-18 clip from the no cost toss line and 18 turnovers.
This is likely not the 2012-13 Kentucky workforce that stumbled into the NIT and shed in the initial round. But retain dreaming if you assume this is just about anything shut to the 2014-15 workforce that won 38 of 39 video games.
Kentucky may possibly navigate the year like the turbulent 2013-14 squad that experienced a roller-coaster practical experience and however managed to reach the Last 4. But which is much from a certainty.
The Wildcats looked shed in the course of Tuesday’s activity.
Kentucky will stay restricted with most opponents this year for the reason that of its dimension. Several teams can cope with a backcourt with 6-foot-5 Hamidou Diallo and 6-6 Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And the large guys all enjoy with fire and above the rim. 6 gamers on the roster stand 6-9 or taller.
It really is not obvious what plays the Wildcats ran, on the other hand, or which defensive concepts they utilized Tuesday for the reason that the bulk of the activity they just flew about the court docket and at the rim and throughout the floor, willing by themselves into details by way of sloppy capturing and restricted execution.
Down 51-47 late in the activity, Kentucky was capturing 3-for-11 from the 3-position line. The Wildcats, constantly intense in the paint, experienced snatched only 6 of a feasible 23 offensive rebounds (26 percent) at that position.
However the Wildcats also experienced managed to protect and toss sufficient of their duration at the Jayhawks to prompt a 3-for-13 commence for Devonte’ Graham, a 6-for-14 commence for Svi Mykhailiuk and a 3-for-13 commence for Malik Newman.
A Kansas backcourt widely regarded as one of America’s most effective could not rating from the athletic, lengthy Wildcats.
Even if the Wildcats fall short to find a go-to scorer or a greater offensive activity approach than one-dribble isolation plays, they’re going to give any opponent hell with their dimension on defense. And probably which is their best asset, perhaps the only energy that will support them compete for the SEC title and much more as soon as the postseason arrives.
In the final seconds, Knox drove to the suitable aspect of the rim and threw up an errant floater that his teammates grabbed. But Kentucky could not rating on the putback.
And that was the tale of the activity — and perhaps of the overall 2017-18 year for Kentucky.
The Wildcats have upcoming NBA draft picks. Their roster is complete of kids who experienced offers from every big software in the place. But that by yourself will never support Kentucky thrive in SEC enjoy and stay alive in March.
The Wildcats desired a hero from the skilled Jayhawks on Tuesday. And most years, Kentucky has one. Or 3.
Tuesday’s reduction proved, on the other hand, the Wildcats may possibly be exploring all year for another person to conserve them.