Kentucky will be #1 on Monday

Kentucky’s 91-70 demolition of Arkansas Saturday gave the college basketball world a glimpse of how good this team can be when it’s clicking on all cylinders.  After the game, John Calipari, the man who’s been feeding his team mouthfuls of humble pie all season long, had this to say about what Arkansas was up against:

“They just hit a buzz saw today.  I think we would have smashed anyone in the country today. That’s not arrogance, but that’s as good as we’ve played for the first 20 minutes. We would have beaten a lot of teams today.”

Arkansas Head Coach and ex-Wildcat John Pelphrey echoed Calpari’s statements with some heavy praise of his own:

“Their size and speed separate them.  Quality frontcourt and depth make them very, very unique at the college level. They’re really good and very well-coached. They very well could be the best team in college basketball this year. I think this is by far the best team we’ve played this year in terms of talent.

That last sentence deserves special attention because, in case you don’t remember, Arkansas recently lost a close one to Texas, a team that, at least before this week, just about everyone was calling the best and most talented in America.

Then, Pelphrey had this to say about Kentucky’s shooting performance:

“If they make perimeter shots, it’s a great debate whether they can be beat or not.  It really is.”

Allow me to help you out with this one, John.  There is no debate.  If Kentucky is hitting shots from the perimeter, there’s not a college basketball team in the universe that can hang with them.  When the Wildcats are shooting the ball, they go from being a very dangerous team to one that is completely unguardable.  And that’s not arrogance or hyperbole, it’s just a fact. Player for player, position for position, when Kentucky’s hitting their outside jumpers, there’s not a non-professional basketball club in the country that can match their offensive output. There just isn’t.

As denimjersey mentioned Friday in his Arkansas preview, it’s become something of a running joke on this site to ‘look for a breakout game from Darius Miller.’  I’ve written it several times, he’s written it several times, and if anyone else wrote with any regularity on this site, they would’ve written it several times, too.  Come to think of it, just about everyone I know has been saying it, but I don’t know anyone who would say that Miller’s been getting anywhere near the most out of his blue chip potential.  He’s shown flashes all season.  Games like his 13-point, 3-for-6 3-point shooting performance against Stanford would make us think he’d turned the corner and we should start expecting big things.  But then, just when we needed him most, he went out against UConn and dropped this gem of stat line: 1-for-7 from field, 0-for-4 from 3, 0-for-0 at the line, one rebound, no assists, two turnovers, 2 total points.  Shit like that just isn’t acceptable. Especially for someone as talented as Darius Miller.

Today’s game was his best all season, and everyone (myself included) is already starting the ‘If Miller can keep playing like this, we’re unstoppable!’ talk.  We should stop it right now, because no one in their right mind should expect Miller to have the kind of game he had against Arkansas night in and night out: 7-for-9 from the field, 4-for-6 from 3, five rebounds, four assists, two steals, 18 total points.  Darius Miller was a beast today.  And although I don’t expect him to have performances like this on a regular basis (he’s just not that kind of player), I am hoping that a showing like this, in a game as big as this one was, will give him the kind of confidence needed to make his Stanford and Arkansas-like performances not quite as few and far between.

Other notes:

– Lost in all the fuss over Miller’s big game was the performance of the three-headed monster off the bench: Darnell Dodson, DeAndre Liggins, and Ramon Harris combined for 13 points and four 3-pointers while spelling Miller and Eric Bledsoe today.  Outside of our inconsistent 3-point shooting, bench production may be our biggest achilles heal.  If these three guys, along with Orton, Stevenson, and whoever else happens to get minutes, can provide an extra 15 or 20 points to a team with a starting lineup already averaging nearly 70/game, then we’ll be in business.

– Speaking of Daniel Orton, the guy’s suddenly become our defensive spark plug down low.  And while he’s still struggling a bit to find his footing on the offensive end, Orton’s found a role as the Cats’ best frontcourt defender off the bench, coming up with 4 blocks today (and 14 in the past six games) to go along with six points and five rebounds in 13 minutes of action. Perry Stevenson also did his part with six points and a couple of boards on his 22nd birthday.

– They do it so often and with such ease that it’s become easy to take these guys for granted: John Wall finished with 16 points and seven assists, DeMarcus Cousins ended the night with 16 points and 14 rebounds, Patrick Patterson chipped in with a modest (by his standards) nine points and seven boards, while Eric Bledsoe contributed 10 points, seven rebounds, and six assists.  All in all, one of the more well-rounded performances I’ve seen by any college basketball team–not just Kentucky–in quite some time.

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