No crew in faculty basketball has ever began a season 1-6 and gone on to earn an at-large bid to the Massive Dance.
That is the daunting development Kentucky is actively attempting to buck after its sluggish begin to the season. And even with a rebound of late — three wins of their final 5 outings to crawl to 4-8 total — the Wildcats’ NCAA Match prospects are dimming by the day. Barring a miraculous and unexpected rally, it appears a ticket to the tourney this yr should come within the type of an automated bid by successful the SEC Match, or it is not going to come in any respect. And a comfort look within the NIT is not a foregone conclusion, both; NIT-bound groups should qualify with a .500 document or higher. At this level within the season, even that appears a bit overly bold.
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“It is unacceptable the place we’re proper now. Unacceptable,” stated John Calipari on Tuesday in a Zoom name with reporters after his crew took its second consecutive loss in SEC play over the weekend. “I am attempting to determine every little thing I can, as a result of I’m not completely satisfied. In any respect.”
The issues at Kentucky unfold far and vast, touching each aspect of the sport.
It’s offensive playmaking — or the shortage thereof — that’s severely hampering UK’s offense. The crew ranks useless final within the SEC in whole assists per sport, and second-to-last — behind solely 1-11 Washington — amongst all energy applications in that statistical class.
It’s poor taking pictures — notably from past the arc — that plagues UK’s offense on a nightly foundation. The crew ranks twelfth within the SEC in 3-point taking pictures share, and 291st amongst all energy applications in that class.
And greater than poor taking pictures, it’s also poor shot choice. ShotQuality.com tracks the standard of shot choice amongst all Division I groups, and Kentucky ranks subsequent to final amongst all SEC groups and 138th nationally. So not solely does UK’s roster lack nice shooters, and never solely have the taking pictures numbers been dangerous, however the high quality of photographs is seemingly compounding the tangential points at hand.
“I discussed to [the team] at this time: Look, guys, we’re enjoying protection as nicely as anyone within the nation (however) we’re not making baskets,” Calipari stated. “I stated ‘Why?’ I checked out Riley Welch and he stated, ‘As a result of our shot choice stinks.’ It is a key for us. Now, you possibly can say ‘Coach you additionally miss wide-open photographs and free throws.’ We do. However we’ve too many powerful photographs we take, and we should not. We’re engaged on it.”
Exacerbating issues, Calipari would not have a fast repair at his disposal. Taking pictures will be cyclical and topic to ebbs and flows. And possibly the crew improves. However just one participant — Dontaie Allen — is hitting 3-pointers at a fee above 35% on the season. This crew is not simply going by way of a hunch; 12 video games into the season, this crew’s id is that it’s a poor taking pictures crew. Interval. It’s going to have to search out methods to win with protection and patch-work offense alongside the way in which.
“We won’t commerce ’em. That is who they’re,” Calipari stated about his crew, acknowledging that, yeah, this crew has some severe flaws.
However what he did not acknowledge is his position in assembling it. Calipari is broadly thought to be one of many all-time ace recruiters in faculty hoops, and he put collectively top-two recruiting lessons in every of the final two cycles. He has corridor of fame credentials, and he roughly had his decide of the litter on the switch market. But this crew struggles each almost each possession to provoke offense, the roster items themselves do not completely match, the extremely touted No. 1 recruiting class has not been as impactful as anticipated, the shot choice is dangerous and the shot-making is even worse. Most, if not all of that, might be remedied by Calipari himself recruiting items that higher match his system, or by foreseeing sore spots on his crew which have reared their ugly head all season, or by enjoying extra optimum lineups whatever the credentials gamers had previous to Kentucky.
As a result of he has failed in these regards, it seems UK is destined for a fourth consecutive yr ranked outdoors the top-100 nationally in crew assists per sport, and a fifth consecutive yr ranked outdoors the top-100 nationally in crew 3-point share. Most of all, although, it seems UK is prone to miss the NCAA Match for the primary time since 2013, a season infamously derailed by a Nerlens Noel ACL tear. Solely this time, Calipari has nobody however himself accountable.
“You may see I am annoyed,” Calipari stated this weekend. “However we’re right here, we nonetheless have our possibilities. I am not giving up on anyone. [We have to] attempt to determine it out.”