Blog Entry

Season Wrap-Up: Kentucky

Posted on: April 3, 2011 5:07 pm
Edited on: April 3, 2011 5:09 pm

Posted by Matt Jones


It was a strange season for the Kentucky Wildcats, one in which the team turned around its worst SEC road record in nearly two decades into an unexpected Final Four appearance. John Calipari’s team struggled at various points in the year to find any success away from Rupp Arena, but by the time March came around, the Wildcats mixed a surprising conglomeration of three talented freshmen and three wily old veterans into a winning formula. 


On Saturday night, the ride ended against UConn, as the Wildcats reverted back to some old bad habits against Jim Calhoun’s team. But that doesn’t change the overall successful nature of the season and the amazing run that Calipari once again orchestrated. In early February many longtime UK followers, myself included, wandered aloud why this year’s Kentucky team had seemed to create such a widespread malaise throughout the Big Blue fanbase. The always passionate UK fans seemed a bit tired of the season and the frustrating nature of this team. But that same group changed everything in just under two months, culminating in a packed house in Reliant Stadium on Saturday night, with blue once again predominating the crowd.


The season also once again proved just what an under-appreciated coach John Calipari truly is. While praised (or questioned) for his recruiting abilities, Calipari is rarely given significant credit for his ability to get the best out of his teams. With this group, Kentucky reached heights that no one imagined and a team with far less talent than what he had last year, or will have next year, cut down the nets in the East regional.


The Wildcats didn’t however beat the Huskies for five reasons:


--- Brandon Knight wasn’t Brandon Knight: The point guard who showcased a dazzling array of skills, but also a cool demeanor that seemed infallible, was simply not himself against the Huskies. He shot 6-23 from the field, but more importantly, did not play with the same precision to which Kentucky had grown accustomed. He attempted to force the offense way too often and except for a quick burst early in the second half, his shots were usually way off target. The Wildcats will rarely win when Brandon Knight is not a star and he was not a star on Saturday.


--- The Veterans Left the Building: Junior Deandre Liggins was very effective on the defensive end against Kemba Walker, but otherwise Kentucky’s three grizzled veterans retreated back to their pre-March selves. Josh Harrellson and Darius Miller missed shots that they normally finished and Liggins seemed wholly unable to penetrate and finish at the rim as he had become accustomed to doing. The great stories of the rise of the veterans was a theme of March, but it disappeared against the Huskies.


--- Free Throws:  Shoot 4-12 in a big game from the free throw line, and your chances of winning are slim. Kentucky missed crucial free throws down the stretch, including two big misses by Terrence Jones and Liggins in the closing two minutes. Free throws are John Calipari’s achilles heel and even with a team that had been successful all year from the charity stripe, it bit them late.


--- Fatigue: I never thought fatigue would be an issue for Kentucky and it had not shown up as a problem all season. But because of an odd stretch in the last ten minutes of the second half, the six-man rotation of Kentucky was gassed. With no stoppage of play and thus no television timeout for a six-minute stretch, Kentucky’s players energy was zapped and they made poor decisions on the offensive end. That gave UConn a lead that it would never relinquish.


--- Poor Final Play:  Deandre Liggins made a big shot against North Carolina in the East regional and hit a huge three to cut the deficit late against UConn. But, there probably was a better final look that Kentucky could have had at the basket with its final shot, than a contested three pointer by Liggins in the final moments. UK went far riding Brandon Knight and his decision making ability. But the Wildcats probably wish they had that play to do over again.


What’s Next for Kentucky


Next season is the year that gives John Calipari his best chance to win a national championship. Many of the pieces from this year’s team will return. Darius Miller and Deandre Liggins should come back to provide senior leadership. Freshman Terrence Jones is likely headed to the NBA draft, but guards Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb still have decisions to make. 


But the key to next year’s success is a recruiting class that may (unbelievably) be John Calipari’s best of his career. Four McDonald’s All Americans will come to Lexington, each of whom are immensely talented. The group of Anthony Davis, Michael Gilchrist, Marquis Teague and Kyle Wiltjer could be one of the five best recruiting classes in college basketball history. With that group, Kentucky has its best chance to cut down the nets in over a decade and the pressure will be on to have a monster season.


Either way, Kentucky basketball is back among the top 5 programs in America and as long as John Calipari is the coach, they will stay in that position. Many around Kentucky will lament the fact that they were so close to championship No. 8 and fell short, but the chances will be there in the future, the best of which may be next season.




Category: NCAAB

Since: Mar 30, 2011
Posted on: April 5, 2011 6:06 pm

Season Wrap-Up: Kentucky

interesting coming from a TU fan.  Guess it doesn't count for Pearl because it was just basketball--or do you claim he was unfairly targeted by the NCAA.....because he lied to the NCAA......and told his assistants to lie to the NCAA.......and asked the Crafts to lie to the NCAA?  Poor guy can't catch a break.  And its very likely that TU and scotty smallballs will lose by 50 to UK next year.

Since: Sep 7, 2006
Posted on: April 4, 2011 5:29 pm

Season Wrap-Up: Kentucky

It is extremely disappointing to read bashing comments towards Cal by people that act like they know him. I bet you would like to know what people say about you behind your back. Probably not good.

True, the Media and NCAA is on Cal constantly. But the same Media and NCAA that crucified Bob Knight has now made him a Face of College Basketball on ESPN. Hypocrisy.

The facts are: Cal brings in talent because the players know they will get EXTREMELY better under his coaching abilities in a very short time. He gets more out of young talent than anyone in the country. Until Cal came, many of the UK teams did not play with the same passion they do now. 

In regards to the UConn game: this was the worst shooting night for a UK team since Feb of 2008. Hard to blame that on coaching. Some nights you're on and some nights you're historically awful. The same thing happened last year in Syracuse. The fact that UK shot the worst they have shot in 3 years and only lost by a point is pretty remarkable.

Losing five first round draft picks and making the Final 4 the next season: Coach of the Year

Since: Sep 22, 2007
Posted on: April 4, 2011 4:07 pm

Season Wrap-Up: Kentucky

BLUEGRAY 213     &n
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Since: May 26, 2009
Posted on: April 4, 2011 3:32 pm

Season Wrap-Up: Kentucky

UK didn't make shots; that's all there was to it.  Whether it was free throws or from-the-floor the story was the same.  UConn didn't play a good game either and the fact that UK still had a chance to win at the ten-second mark stands as evidence.  If UK knocked down even a few of those open early looks (shots they made most of the year) it woulda' changed the whole complexion of the game.  Considering the outlook in January, UK had terrific year (SEC Champion, beat all of their traditional rivals and made the F-Four) and I'm proud of 'em.  Congrats to Harrellson and the Team! 

Time now for all the bone-heads to spend the off season predicting Calipari doom and secretly coveting his skills for their own Team; hypocrits all.

Since: Apr 4, 2011
Posted on: April 4, 2011 2:07 pm

Season Wrap-Up: Kentucky

Yes, it was surprising they made this far but history repeats itself. Calipari's team missed foul shots in close games, fatigue is a factor because towards the end of the season/tournaments his rotation is down to 6 or7, not calling a time out at the end of close game, etc.  Need I remind you of Memphis vs Kansas in 2008?
I will admit that he can recruit and the dribble-drive is fun to watch - when the right personnel can pull it off.

Since: Dec 21, 2007
Posted on: April 4, 2011 1:14 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Jul 27, 2009
Posted on: April 4, 2011 12:34 pm

Season Wrap-Up: Kentucky

13 Years and Counting...

Since: Nov 12, 2006
Posted on: April 4, 2011 12:17 pm

Season Wrap-Up: KY

Now that this season is over for KY, how long will it be before the latest Calipari violations hit the press?

Since: Sep 23, 2007
Posted on: April 4, 2011 11:12 am

Season Wrap-Up: Kentucky

Hey, Anthony, did you miss Prince spaghetti night? Calipari is a superb coach. He takes 18 yr. olds who have been pampered by all their family & prior coaches and turns them into a TEAM. That is harder to do then have them take more practice free-throws. Gimmee a break, converting them into team players is more important than your point on free throws. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year and he takes them to the final 4. Who are you kidding? You just don't like the guy, so keep your Kentucky remarks more realistic. Thank you.


Since: Oct 12, 2010
Posted on: April 4, 2011 10:36 am

Season Wrap-Up: Kentucky

As long as Cal is the coach, no Ring.

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