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End of Season Review - UK

posted Mar 27, 2013, 5:31 AM by Daniel Fugitt

    With a first round NIT loss to Robert Morris in their 3,000 seat high school gymnasium, this painful season came to an abrupt end.  And honestly, thankfully so.  A season that started with a pre season #3 ranking and hopes of a Final Four three-peat closed with double digit losses and exits in the first games played in both the SEC Tournament and NIT.

    This team, as with the 2011 Final Four squad, started with manly holes, but loads of talent.  However, unlike the 2011 team, this one never found it’s grove, even with arguably more skill.  While the 2011 Cats killed opponents with deadly long range shooting (the most accurate 3 point shooting team in UK history), stingy defense and strong rebounding, this squad was plagued by poor defensive effort, soft rebounding and lots of standing around on offense.

    While in most cases, a team’s head coach will receive most, if not all, of the blame for his team’s shortcomings, I can’t pin this solely on John Calipari... I’ve seen him mold teams too many times to do that.  Don’t get me wrong, he certainly gets some of the blame, but the majority falls on the Kentucky team and their lackadaisical approach to the game.  Calipari did everything he could, all season long, to push the right buttons to get his team to play motivated.  These guys simply did not want to motivated.

    As with all Calipari teams since his implementation of the dribble drive, his teams lived and died with guard play, and the play of Ryan Harrow and Archie Goodwin left a lot to be desired.

Ryan Harrow (RS Sophomore) -

I had high hopes for Ryan coming into this season.  Despite his slender frame, he had (and still has) unbelievable athletic ability and an amazing handle on the ball.  I had convinced myself, despite the rumors while he was in Raleigh that he was mentally and physically weak, that a year practicing against a national title team and first round pick Marquis Teague would break him of his habits.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Ryan had a tumultuous season hampered by extreme inconsistency.  He went through streaks of games where he was unstoppable and carried the team, and then would immediately disappear (both figuratively and literally as he left the team for a 10 day period after the start of the season) for five games.  Never have I witnessed a player check out of a game so quickly.  If Ryan missed his first shot, made an early turnover or was matched up with a more physical player, you might as well sit him.. he was done.  

What was troubling was it did seem like he genuinely cared.  Despite his stoicism throughout most of the year, his reaction and comments after the SEC Tournament loss to Vanderbilt was telling.  In a game where he went 2/15 from the floor and missed numerous gimme layups (causing former UK player Mark Krebs to quip that he felt that Harrow had money on the game), he took full responsibility for the loss and the disappointing season.  You could tell he truly meant it.  His tears, somber face and comments were not just for the cameras.  Word around the program is that Ryan won't be back (despite he saying that he will) and I hate that for him.  I really hope that he succeeds wherever he ends up.

Archie Goodwin (Freshman) -

Never has a player frustrated me more than Terrence Jones did during his freshman season.  The combination of elite level talent and WTF decision making was enough for me to bash my head in.  Archie didn’t surpass Terrence...but he did come awful close.  I think the fact that Terrence was better than Archie is what held his progress back in my “Please pass the ball now” meter.  

Despite all of the questionable shots, lazy passes, out of control drives and stone handed attempts at catching, I can’t be too mad at Archie.  He gave 100% at all times.  That was something to be said for a player on this team.  Despite all of the talk throughout the season that Archie was NBA bound no matter what, recent talk is that he is expected back.  I hope he makes a similar transformation to what Terrence Jones did between his Freshman and Sophomore season.

Alex Poythress (Freshman) -

Let’s start off with his physical attributes.  Alex Poythress is an absolute man... visually.  At 6’8, 240 pounds, he has the looks of LeBron James on the court.  His play couldn't contrast his appearance any more that it did.  Tubby Smith once made that comment that Kelenna Azubuike “looked like Tarzan, played like Jane” … and may be.  But, he was at least All SEC.  Most games, if Poythress wasn’t on the court, I’m not sure that I would have noticed.  You would notice Ryan Harrow making a turn over or Archie Goodwin committing a charge, but not Alex.  You have to be involved the game in some way for you to notice someone.  Alex simply disappeared into the crowd.  Projected as a lottery pick at the start of the season, Poythress is expected to return to UK next season.

Kyle Wiltjer (Sophomore) -

Kyle Wiltjer’s play this season was a combination of Ryan Harrow and Alex Poythress.  The unbelievable sharp shooting that he displayed last season, coupled with a smooth touch around the basket and a 6’10 frame led me to believe that he had a shot to be the leading scorer on this team.  More often than not, however, a missed shot would cause him to curl back into his turtle shell and not even look at the rim for the next three games.  There is some buzz right now that he is looking to transfer, possibly to Gonzaga, but UK or Wiltjer have not released any official statement at this time.

Nerlens Noel (Freshman) -

I have little to say about Nerlens.  He was amazing.  Even after an ACL injury derailed his season in early February, he was still named SEC Freshman of the Year, SEC Defensive Player of the Year and finished 2nd all times in UK single season blocks.  He is projected as a Top 5 pick in the NBA draft this coming year and some believe he will go #1.

Julius Mays (Redshirt Senior)

Mays wasn’t the most athletic or most skilled player, but he was a leader on this team.  The kids listened to Uncle Julius, even when they wouldn't to Coach Cal.  His veteran presence kept this team from completely nose diving during this season.