I recently had a conversation that got me thinking: Should early non-conference “throwaway” games be used more as opportunities to hone–just discover, even–a team’s defensive prowess rather than sharpen a team’s already-known offensive ability (usually done by trying to utterly thrash the other team)? Tennessee is absolutely manhandling their early season opponents by 50 or more, but, in the end, is this helping or hurting them? When you press and go full-speed on offense against teams like UNC-Asheville, you might be setting your team up for disappointment when players look up at the scoreboard mid-season and see a 53-52 game with 5 minutes to go rather than 100-47. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking your team’s offense is a lot more dominant than it really is (players and fans alike).
That said, it’s pretty obvious after three games that UK’s strong point this season is going to be offense, which, admittedly, after Tubby and Billy G., is going to take a while to get used to. The team has shown it has a lot of natural offensive talent, but as the last two closer-than-many-expected games have shown, there is much room for improvement on defense. Miami (OH) and Sam Houston State have certainly kept the ‘Cats honest.
Why not let an offense develop naturally–which it’s bound to do when raw individual talent is present and overseen by a coach who can bring it all together–but really go after it on defense in practice and in these early games? I’m not saying don’t practice offense, nor am I advocating purposely keeping teams in the game, but every player who knows he can score loves to score; not every player who loves to score loves to put forth the effort to stop an opposing player from doing it. There are so many future NBA players on the ‘Cats roster, and it seems many of them already imagine themselves as pros, thinking they can simply outplay teams on offense while maintaining an “if they score, they score” attitude on D. All together now: This ain’t the NBA.
Calipari has even stated that the team doesn’t have a “winning” attitude because many players are used to playing on AAU teams, where multiple games are played per day, win or lose. Under those circumstances, when a winning attitude isn’t necessarily as important for advancement, it seems defense would also take a back seat. Maybe focusing a little more on defense early on will set a team up to play better in the middle and latter parts of the season when an offense should be running smoothly. It’s great to see your team score 100 or more, but I’d also rather win games 65-51 early on if it means sacrificing points for better defense (and more honestly earned offense) down the stretch.
Notes on the Rider Broncs:
– Apparently, there really is no “O” in Broncs. Maybe they’re just big fans of a certain actor from everyone’s favorite TGIF sitcom, Boy Meets World. Or they are sick a lot. (Click links for really stupid jokes that, come to really think about it, may not even make sense.)
– Their record is 2-1, with an upset over then-ranked #19 Mississippi St. thanks to “relentless offense.” The score was 88-74 with the Broncs making 10 of 16 threes (63%). Those aren’t Corey Allmond numbers, but certainly respectable. Here’s hoping the Broncs aren’t on fire from deep or the ‘Cats are a little better at defending the three. Their other victory was over the widely known and highly underrated LeHigh Mountain Hawks. Their only loss was a thorough running-through at the hands of Virginia, 79-46.
– I was happy to see Darius Miller contribute 15 points against Sam Houston State. I look for him to improve on that. With our other offensive weapons, if Miller can average 15 a game, those points will be huge in what are likely to be tight battles with top teams. Calipari wasn’t impressed with his defense, but there’s no need to be redundant.
– Hopefully Jon Hood can get comfortable and start making shots before long. Granted, that’s difficult when you get 0-8 minutes of PT per game, but you can never have too many shooters.
– Overshadowed by Cousins’ monstrous double-double was Patterson’s near double-double. He had 20 points and 9 rebounds against SHS, including another 3-pointer. In terms of athletic ability and production, you can’t ask for much more from your big men. I look for more of the same.
– Here are a couple good articles on Patterson. One’s relatively new; the other is older and shines light on a side of college basketball stars that’s rarely seen.
ESPN – Andy Katz: Patterson almost bounced, but wants Title glory
Yahoo! – Jason King: Patterson a true blue good guy
Hopefully the ‘Cats cannot only get a decisive win over Rider, but the football team can pull off the “upset” over the once-struggling, now kinda-coming-around Georgia Bulldogs. They are coming off a big win over Auburn last week (both UK and GA beat AU by a TD) that has them bowl eligible and for the moment has tamed the beast of their demanding fanbase. Of course, their other beast has tragically passed on, so expect the ‘Dogs–players–to play with heavy hearts. (There are reasons most other team’s mascots are costumes.)
Living in Atlanta, I’ve watched more Georgia football than ever before, and their starting QB, senior Joe Cox (pictured above), just isn’t that good. When the camera zooms in on him mid-play, he looks like your average deer in headlights. What Michael Porter was to UK basketball Joe Cox seems to be for GA football. Here’s hoping he doesn’t breakout and throw for a record number of touchdowns against UK. (That could only happen to the old Kentucky, right?) Though arguably the two best receivers in the SEC could be sidelined with injuries, it should be a great game nonetheless.