Seven things we learned about Kentucky this weekend
Kentucky walked into the Yum Center on Saturday and walked out with their second straight big time win. If the North Carolina win didn’t get the attention of Big Blue Nation, then the one over Louisville did the job. Here are my takeaways from the weekend.
- Writing the team off after early struggles continues to show epic stupidity- Folks, we are in year 10 of the Calipari era. Outside of just a few of those seasons there has been a lot of early struggles. In all of those years except one, the team got it figured out and was a Final Four contender by March. Yet every new season brings about fans freaking out like it has not happened before. How much history do you need to be able to see the pattern? I realize that it is pointless to try to be rational and logical with that group of fans but get a grip and stop being so stupid!
- It is starting to click for Tyler Herro- He was the most dominant offensive player on the floor against Louisville. He scored on drives to the basket, mid-range jumpers and on three point shots. He scored 24 points and was 4-6 from three. He also added 5 rebounds, 2 steals and a blocked shot to round out his game. After some shooting struggles early in the season it had fans wondering what was going on. The reality is that it takes time for freshman shooters to adjust to the college game. That has been true of multiple shooters in their first season at Kentucky and I felt the same would be true of Herro. He has raised his 3-point shooting percentage to 33% on the season and it will continue to climb as the season goes on. When he scores the ball the way he did on Saturday it makes Kentucky extremely hard to defend.
- Ashton Hagans is a game changer– A few weeks ago I wrote that Ashton Hagans was the most important player for Kentucky to become a title contender. After the last few games I am feeling pretty good about that prediction because he is the one most responsible for changing the trajectory of this team. He is an absolute bulldog on defense and he will only get better as the season continues. Offensively he is playing with so much more confidence than he played with early in the year or even in the Bahamas. As he continues to come out of his shell and take leadership of the team it will be huge for Kentucky’s title hopes.
- PJ Washington continues to do it all– He is a scoring threat even in the games that he does not score a lot but it is his all-around game that makes him so good. He is the Cats leading rebounder on the season by a wide margin and he has elevated his shot blocking game over the past few weeks. He has also become a play maker by creating for his teammates out of the high post. After the game against North Carolina I compared him to Draymond Green and that continues to be a great comparison for him. As he continues to embrace the role of being the jack of all-trades and energy guy it makes everyone on the team better. It also makes him into a better NBA draft pick in the process.
- Keldon Johnson has no chill– The young man will dunk it on your head and scream right in your face like you don’t even exist. As the game was winding down and it looked like Kentucky would dribble the shot clock down before maybe shooting a jumper, Keldon opted to drive the ball down the lane and elevate for a thunderous exclamation dunk. He walks on the court with his energy level cranked to 11 and he walks off the court the exact same way. His energy and mentality is something that seems to be rubbing off and becoming the identity of the team. Keldon is not worried about looking cool, he only cares about winning and will do whatever he needs to to make it happen. He is the guy you build your team around.
- This team can make the Final Four– They are not even close to being a finished product and they are still going to lose more games but this team can win in March. They have five difference makers with several reserves capable of stepping up in big moments. They can score inside and outside but can also beat you with their defense and rebounding. There is no doubt in my mind that this team will be one of the favorites to still be playing in April.
- Swaggy Cal is back and he means business– After the win on Saturday he seemed willing to answer questions and talk forever. UK SID Eric Lindsey had to practically drag him off the stage so he would stop talking. His mood is a clear sign that he is extremely excited about where this team is headed. He likes his team.
With another week off to work and prepare it will only get this team more ready to open up SEC play on the road at Alabama. Now Kentucky fans can turn their attention back to football in hopes of knocking off Penn State in the Citrus Bowl. This has the making of a very fun week in the Bluegrass State, well unless your favorite team wears red…
Oh and PS, L’s down!