Analyzed Sports | Andre’ Chapman
In one of its first of three exhibition games, Kentucky relied on a combined 42 points from freshmen teammates Kevin Knox (27), and PJ Washington (15) as the Wildcats breezed to an easy 103 – 61 victory over the Saints of Thomas More. Below are some of my key observations from last night’s victory.
- KEVIN KNOX – This kid is the truth. Knox finished with 27 points on 8-12 shooting while pulling down four rebounds in 28 minutes. He was 10-10 from the free throw line and played the passing lanes well to come away with two steals. Overall I believe Kevin Knox will lead this young Kentucky team in scoring. As the season progresses, we will see how well he passes the ball once teams start to key on him with double teams. His 3 point percentage must be consistent too to keep defenses honest, as he only shot 25% from behind the arch against Thomas More on 1-of-4 shooting.
- STARTING FIVE – John Calipari started the game with five freshmen. Quade Green, Hami Diallo, Kevin Knox, PJ Washington and Nick Richards. The 17-18 season will be a work in progress, as this will be the least experienced team that Calipari has had during his tenure at UK. The fans must be patient with this bunch. I can see this team dropping a few in non-conference play and up to 5 or 6 games during SEC Play due to their lack of experience. Calipari will have them ready to make a run in March.
- FREE THROW SHOOTING – As a team, the Wildcats only managed to shoot 73.3 percent from the charity stripe, but I believe this team has a chance to be a great free-throw shooting team. Players I trust with the ball at the end of games so far is Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nick Richards, and PJ Washington as they combined to shoot 19-21 for 90 percent. Quade Green and Hami are capable of being great too. Right now I don’t trust Wenyen or Killeya-Jones if UK needs two free-throws in late game situations.
Based on the first exhibition game for the Men’s Kentucky Wildcats 2017-2018 College Basketball season, I believe this team has the potential to be a Sweet 16 type of squad. Teams will zone this team this season to keep them out of the lane and force them to shoot the three.
This young group of guys must become one unit on the defensive end of the court. Once they get better at playing without fouling and standing their ground during pump fakes, I think they can be an exceptional unit on defense. Last night John Calipari used the press in the game against Thomas More to condition the team. Calipari should also use the press this season to speed the game up to create deflections and chances at some easy buckets because these guys are going to need easy scores once teams start forcing them to play in the half-court.
Fans will need to hold the expectations back a lot for this young team. It will take them to SEC Tournament Play to figure out what Calipari wants from them. Although NCAA Brackets can break down, and the tournament is random, I don’t see Final Four in the future for Calipari’s 9th team. I do trust the process and believe they can make a run at a Sweet 16, but without the right matchup in the tournament, I don’t expect them to go further than that.
With the potential of returning a bunch of players after this season and adding Zion Williamson, Immanual Quickley, and some other talented players in the 2018 recruiting class, this season should be looked at as the season the Wildcats gained game and tournament experience. Next Years’ team will be ready to make a run at the 2018-2019 National Title. That’s right I predict the Wildcats will win their 9th National Championship next season.