Because of work, I wasn’t able to catch the majority of yesterday’s game against LSU. Not that I needed to; the Tigers are terrible and Kentucky, from what I saw, played a solid game. Generally speaking, it’s hard to pull a whole hell of a lot from those types of games. But I will try:
– DeMarcus Cousins continued his assault on the UK freshman record books with a 19 point, 13 rebound performance (in just 20 minutes of action) that gave him his sixth straight and 14th double-double of the season. Also of note, Cousins is eigth in the country in double-doubles for the season and 24th in rebounding. The way his numbers have increased of late–along with the way Wall’s have slightly decreased–has upped the chatter of a possible SEC and/or National Player of the Year award for the freshman big man. Keep in mind, this gradual transition in though has come quite a long way. It was only a little over a month ago when John Wall was on the cover of SI and pretty much everyone assumed that all the postseason POY awards were his to lose. For whatever reason, over the past few games Kentucky’s started to look more and more to Cousins when they need a bucket, essentially getting away from the core principles of Calipari’s DDM, which makes me think he (Calipari) sees a lot in Cousins. Calipari’s made a name for himself by developing point guards, primarily because the offense he runs encourages the sort of ‘Lead Guard’ game that allows players like Wall and Derrick Rose to put up huge numbers. So, it’s not like Calipari is getting away from something that he hasn’t had success with. For him to essentially change the entire offense around so that every possession goes through Cousins, and not Wall, is maybe the strongest testament of any to Cousins’ abilities.
– From what I saw yesterday (which, I admit, wasn’t much), Patterson seemed to be getting more touches in the paint than he’s been getting of late. I like this, but it’s not something that I’m expecting to see more of as the season winds down. I love Patterson’s game in the paint, but Calipari’s offense runs best with one true big man–which Cousins has clearly established himself as–and another sort of hybrid wing/post guy that can make perimeter moves and knock down perimeter shots. Patterson’s filled that role to the best of his abilites, and for that he should be commended. The majority of his shots now are perimeter jump shots, a far cry from the back-to-the-basket brute we’ve come to know and love over the past two seasons. With that said, his change in position/style has forced his game to evolve, and (at least according to Coach Cal) improved his NBA stock immensely. He looks much more comfortable taking 3-pointers now than he did at the start of the season, which has seemed to translate to a more confident and effective stroke. I guess what I’m getting at is Patterson’s evolution as a player wasn’t something I saw coming (at least not to this degree), but is something that, I think, seems to be working out for the best.
– Part of me hates to bring this up again, but Kentucky’s offense has a much greater up-side with Dodson (rather than Miller) as the starter at small forward. He’s not necessarily a better shooter in terms of statistics, but he’s a much more confident shooter (and player, for that matter), which keeps the defense honest and opens up more for everyone else. With Miller on the floor, the defense has one guy they can essentially ignore, since they know he isn’t looking to drive, pull-up, handle the ball, or do anything, really, other than float around the 3-point line and await kickouts from John Wall and Eric Bledsoe. I love Miller, and I hope he breaks out of this funk he’s in sooner than later, but until that happens, Dodson’s the guy. His defense in shakey, sure, but let’s be honest, this team doesn’t hand its hat on defense (if it did, Wall wouldn’t see the floor). This is an offensive team built to get up and down the floor, finish in transition, and score lots of points in a hurry. They already have two essential elements to that sort of offense–quick, efficient guards and a dominant big man–and Patrick Patterson at the four-spot is nothing to shrug your shoulders at. All they’re missing is a confident, dead-eye shooter–someone who can keep the defense from packing it in and making them shoot–and Dodson has the potential to be that guy. Moral of the story: Keep Dodson in the starting lineup.