Blog Entry

Even Kentucky has its limitations right now

Posted on: November 20, 2011 4:07 pm
Edited on: November 20, 2011 4:08 pm

By Matt Norlander

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — There wasn’t one minute that went by Sunday afternoon when I didn’t think about just how freakily athletic Anthony Davis was. Or how staunch Michael Kidd-Gilchrist played. Or how yoked Terrence Jones became in the offseason.

It was my first time seeing UK since last year’s Final Four lost to Connecticut. Team looked good. Looked physical, intimidating and about the closest thing to an NBA collection of talent we’ll be seeing this season.

But despite all that skill, Kentucky merely managed an ugly, 62-52 win over Old Dominion. The game was in doubt until the final five minutes. There’s already talk — planted proudly and publicly by John Calipari — that ODU provided the blueprint for how to handle Kentucky. Ah, that mystical documentation that decodes Big Blue. Each season, it’s the Holy Grail.

Hogwash, largely. Teams are going to beat Kentucky this year be either A ) Shooting incredibly efficiently, B) Having at least two NBA players on their roster, C) Food poisoning. Old Dominion used its system and had its guys up for the biggest or second-biggest game it will play this season. Kentucky was playing in front of 3,000 people, for the second straight day, in a far-away arena in the middle of Nowhere, Connecticut.

“Kansas, we were really pumped up because we were playing at the Garden. We were just amped,” Davis said. “Here, you know, we were amped, but we weren’t ready to go.”

I can’t take much from this kind of win. I just came here to watch a team that’s quickly becoming college basketball’s version of The Beatles. The amount of Kentucky fans here was truly reprehensible — Connecticut isn’t worth a trip, folks — and you can already see how possible (and easy?) it could eventually be for Kentucky to get to back-to-back Final Fours. Right now, the team’s following a pattern that’s existed the past two years, Darius Miller said.

“It’s kind of the same. The last two years we’ve struggled early on to figure out what we were going to do,” Miller said. “Eventually we’re going to find out exactly how we want to play, everybody’ s going to have their role and know what they need to do.”

What I learned: Kentucky can’t always dictate the terms by which it will win this year. And when a team has five or six future pros, that’s pretty amazing. But the youth and all that, you know? You get that young, you don’t deserve the right to say how and why you will win or lose. UK couldn’t push it, no matter how hard they tried. I can’t help but think of North Carolina played Old Dominion on a neutral court in three days that the Tar Heels would put up 75 with ease.

UNC has a point guard with experience and savvy. Kentucky has Marquis Teague, a flashy player who played god-awful Sunday. Teague had a stat correlation no one ever wants: as many points as turnovers (six).

For more than an hour, Old Dominion made it a fun game. An ugly one, but still fun.

“The only thing I regret is those last five minutes could have been an awful lot of fun,” Old Dominion coach Blaine Taylor said. “We worked pretty hard the first 35 to get to the last five, and then we didn’t get to have fun down the stretch.”

Taylor’s team shook UK’s mental toughness. Jones and Davis were genuinely challenged and rattled at times. It’s what Calipari want to see right now—a team threaten his team without really threatening them. Kentucky does no good to itself by rolling fools to the tune of 96-63 each night.

Kentucky pasted Penn State Saturday, and what can we take from that? Nothing, really. Penn State's young and rebuilding. Old Dominion has some experience, an idea of what it can do.

“When you’re winning by 50 you can kind of put cotton in your ears sometimes,” Taylor said. “Not very many people had zoned them. So, one they hadn’t seen it … I thought we were kind of catching them at a point where we didn’t know what they were going to do or react. And they’re used to having their way, and the zone didn’t let them have their way, or give them immediate gratification, which they’re used to.”

“I think it’s just chemistry, to tell you the truth,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “It’s the chemistry on the court. We’re still figuring stuff out and we’re very young. But we’re very and we’re going to be very good. I’m not worrying about anything.”


Since: Dec 21, 2009
Posted on: November 21, 2011 5:59 pm

Even Kentucky has its limitations right now

"However, the most glaring difference with this team compared to Calipari's first two teams is that Teague is nowhere close to being in the same solar system as Wall and Knight when it comes to having the total package to immediately establish himself as an elite player at this level."
If you would look back at last year you would easily see how Knight struggled early - stats are almost the same. He will be fine.

Since: Sep 5, 2006
Posted on: November 21, 2011 1:48 pm

Even Kentucky has its limitations right now

The first thing that stands out as a problem for this Kentucky team (as well as for just about any Calipari coached team) is poor free throw shooting.  58% isn't going to get it done in the NCAA Tournament against a top notch team and past history is not a good sign for Kentucky.

Horrendous free throw shooting has killed Kentucky in both of their NCAA Tournament losses under Calipari.
UK went 16 for 29 in the Elite Eight loss to West Virginia and 4 for 12 in the Final Four loss to UConn.

However, the most glaring difference with this team compared to Calipari's first two teams is that Teague is nowhere close to being in the same solar system as Wall and Knight when it comes to having the total package to immediately establish himself as an elite player at this level. 

Teague has looked overwhelmed at times and that will have to change if Kentucky is going to get where it wants to go.

With that being said, Kentucky's talent level is such that they could explode at any time and make a strong run at the national championship. But for that to happen, Teague is going to need to drastically improve his ball handling skills.

This is still easily a 30 win team, but I have a feeling that Kentucky fans are expecting a lot more than that.

Since: Feb 16, 2011
Posted on: November 21, 2011 12:30 pm

Even Kentucky has its limitations right now

Kentucky's biggest problem right now along with being young is ATTITUDE!!!!  Teague wanted to run his mouth more than the point (possibly because he kept turning the ball over) but his attitue could become contagious. I understand frustration and not being able to force you will on teams when thats what your use to but Jones had gotten a little chippy as well and i know Jones always had a little attitude but with Teague this year it seems to have escallated. 

We all know Demarcus Cousins and Ramel Bradley had some attitude but they were able to contain it and not let it cause turmoil amoung the team.  I know its still early and I'm not saying that this is what will happen with this team but i can certainly see this a possiblity.

Teague has the potential to be a good point guard, now I don't see him being as good as our last two this year.  But i can see him staying for two maybe three years and being one of the elite point guards down the road.  He has the ability just needs to learn some self control.

With all that said as a UK fan I'm still stoked about this team and their potential.  I'm not hanging the National Championship banner or even the Final Four banner on them like most are there are alot of good teams out there.  I'm along for the ride and just like the best roller coasters there will ups and downs.  

Since: Sep 24, 2006
Posted on: November 21, 2011 11:08 am

Even Kentucky has its limitations right now

I almost read the article till I saw who wrote it. You still work here Norlander?

Since: Oct 7, 2010
Posted on: November 21, 2011 10:34 am

Even Kentucky has its limitations right now

Kentucky will get better each week, but if Teague doesn't get better, they won't be going back to the Final Four.

Since: May 17, 2011
Posted on: November 21, 2011 10:23 am

Even Kentucky has its limitations right now

This game with ODU was a great wake-up call. Teague really needs to find himself.

Since: May 23, 2011
Posted on: November 21, 2011 12:22 am

Even Kentucky has its limitations right now

Honestly i think the young cats looked over ODU.They beat the breaks off of penn and where probably expectin to cruise by ODU.Plus they've been on the road for a week straight now and its super early in the season.Not the best they can be yet but im glad they had a game like this.

Since: Mar 13, 2007
Posted on: November 20, 2011 10:12 pm

Even Kentucky has its limitations right now

I understand your comment and agree that bloggers all over are slacking off on what they should have learned in English 101.  But I have been reading a book, published ON PAPER, with about 20 errors throughout.  This blog was about a one hour tournaround, books take months. 

Since: Nov 20, 2011
Posted on: November 20, 2011 4:43 pm

Even Kentucky has its limitations right now

I guess blogs aren't required to have been proofread before they are posted...

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or