Three Takeaways From Kentucky’s Exhibition Opener

Kentucky took the floor for their first exhibition game of the season last night. They faced the three-time NAIA national champions, Georgetown College. The Cats jumped out to a fast start and won the game easily, by the final score of 80-53. Be sure to check out our full photo gallery.   Here are the three things that stood out to me, as well as our interviews with the players after the game.

1. The guards will lead the way- It is still not clear what lineup Cal will settle on as his five players that he wants on the floor most of the time. The thing that seems crystal clear to me is that there are three players that are staking their claim in that lineup. Immanuel Quickley, Ashton Hagans and Tyrese Maxey need to be on the floor as much as possible this season. The trio combined for 44 points last night and they looked good on the floor together. All three of the guards are big enough to guard the small forward position, so it is very possible that Cal will play a three guard lineup a lot this year. The experience of Hagans and Quickley makes the offense look much better than it usually looks at this point in the season. Quickley continues to play with a high level of confidence, and he looks ready to pick up a lot of the scoring load this season. Ashton has clearly improved his shot and his ability to break down defenders will allow him to create in the lane. Add in his defense and he will be a huge asset on this team. Tyrese is a bit of a combination of Hagans and Quickley. He can drive the ball, but he can shoot from outside and score in the mid-range as well. He just needs time to adjust to the college game and to understand how Cal wants him to play. The great thing about having Hagans and Quickley is that it will take pressure off Tyrese and allow him to develop as the season progresses. If there is a team with better guards in college basketball, I will have to see it to believe it. These three can lead Kentucky back to the Final Four.

2. Defense will be this teams calling card- The length, quickness and athleticism of this team will make them extremely good on the defensive end. They also have two big time shot blockers in EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards. The lack of a rim protector is something that has hurt Kentucky defensively since Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl Towns left Lexington. Having either Montgomery or Richards on the floor at all times, will allow the guards to really pressure the ball and dare players to drive past them. This could be the best defensive back court that Cal has had at Kentucky. Add in a couple long and freakish athletes at the wing in Kahlil Whitney and Keion Brooks, and this team can be special. It will take time for them to figure it out, but once it all clicks it will be scary.

3. A low post scorer must emerge-  This team will be perimeter oriented and they have the firepower to win that way. But they still need to get some scoring in the post, to help balance everything out. Nick Richards is probably the most suited for being able to score out of the post but he has not been called upon to do it regularly before. EJ prefers to face up towards the basket, but he could also be an option to score down low. Teams will look to rough EJ and Nick up inside, so they must be prepared for that and not shy away from contact. Nate Sestina can also score in the post and has the strength to keep from being pushed around. His biggest issue will be that he is a bit short for the low post. With that said, Kentucky has had plenty of undersized low post scorers in the past. I liked how Nick was playing last night before he rolled his ankle. It would be great to have one guy establish themselves as the post scorer, but it may be done by committee on this team. In the end all that matters is that the job gets done.

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