The 2014-15 Kentucky basketball team has looked very impressive on their foreign tour in the Bahamas, armed with a 4-0 record and an average margin of victory of 21 points. The team is poised, unselfish, and very talented from the top to bottom of the roster. I must temper my excitement because it’s August and there are a good number of teams that would give them a run for their money. Nevertheless, here are some of my observations through four games:
-The Harrison twins have improved
The biggest thing I’ve noticed about Andrew and Aaron is their increased comfort level on the court. Both guards know what the coaching staff wants and how to use their strengths in that context. Gone is the sulking and the confused, deer-in-the-headlights look on their faces, which showed their youth and inexperience.
Andrew’s passing isn’t as errant as it was last year, and he’s finding success creating for teammates in transition and via the pick and roll. Much has been made about this Kentucky team’s general unselfishness, and Andrew has a lot to do with that.
Playing off his teammates has come rather easily for Aaron. He’s picking his spots quite well and avoiding overly difficult shot attempts. He really likes to employ a mid range jumper as a scoring weapon, and looks solid beyond the 3-point line. He’s confident enough now to take you off the dribble now when needed.
-Dakari Johnson has really slimmed down
Seeing Dakari Johnson run the floor with ease is not a sight I’m used to (I had to do a double take on occasion). Dakari’s sleeker frame has helped him in the athleticism department, allowing him to be a dangerous trailer while guards are pushing the pace. He’s was already a very good offensive rebounder, but now with more mobility, he can become a great one. Dakari’s frame doesn’t seem to have removed much of his core strength–he’s still banging down low and a load to handle with a foot in the paint.
-Tyler Ulis is relentless
James Ulis, Tyler’s dad, was never worried about his son’s playing time on a deep team. Watching Tyler play, you can see why his dad had no worries. He’s made his mark on the defensive end by pressing up on the offensive player and forcing havoc. On the offensive end, he’s as poised as they come. He has a solid jumper and keeps his head up to find his teammates.
-Karl Towns (enough said)
It’s obvious how talented and skilled this freshman from New Jersey is. He’s really solid in the post and is comfortable playing out to the perimeter. What impresses me the most is his vision and passing, as he has pulled a few no-look passess out of his trick bag. He’s the ideal big man to use against the zone because he can see above the defense and deliver a timely pass into the gaps.
-Alex Poythress continues to get it
Poythress has made significant strides during his time in Lexington, none more important that learning to play within himself. He’s crashing the boards consistently and just ripping down boards because of his elite vertical athleticism. Poythress is getting out in transition and taking smart shots, not trying to prove to people that he can make the 3 (though he did make two threes against the Dominican Republic).
–John Calipari has a lot of weapons but also a lot of decisions to make
This is Coach Cal’s deepest team ever, and having to play all of the players will prove to be difficult. It’s one thing to emulate hockey on hardwood in August, but another in January. As a result, some players will have to sit on the bench for the greater good. In their scrimmages, Kentucky has been able to sub five different players in without missing a beat–and that’s without Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles! That’s some serious depth, and a great, great problem to have.