After Win Over Portland, It's Clear Kentucky Really Has a Shot (Literally)
"New" is used relatively, as John Calipari has written this script before. Starting two freshmen and no legitimate center, Kentucky is a far cry from last year's team which featured four first-round picks in its starting five. Long and defensive-minded, this team features an element that was sorely missed a year ago: shooting.
A team with reliable shooters is much more suitable for the college game than a team full of NBA talent, as evidenced by Duke's title run. Last year, teams would pack the middle against Kentucky, forcing guards Eric Bledsoe and John Wall into long jumpers they'd rather not hoist. Obviously, the Cats managed, winning their first 19 games and reaching the Elite 8. Still, early in the season they were vulnerable (lest we forget the Miami of Ohio barn-burner, in which they needed a Wall fade-away at the buzzer to win).
This year, or so it appears thus far, not only will Kentucky have the ability to bury 3-pointers, but it will be a weapon. Each starter last night, and extending to Doron Lamb and Jon Hood off the bench, is a confident shooter that can be a viable outside threat. Last night on the road against Portland, Kentucky was 8-18 from deep, a solid follow-up to their 13-26 performance in their opener. Both of which are a far cry from the season-ending loss to West Virginia last year in which Kentucky missed its first 20 shots from long range, albeit against much less stout defensive pressure. Then again, a year ago (with the full small sample size warning in effect), Kentucky shot 21 percent from 3 in its opener and 25 percent in its fourth game .
Though demonstrably less talented than a season ago, Kentucky still has the tools to make a run this year. Rather than the ball dying on the perimeter, as it often did a year ago against packed-in zone defenses, the Cats have a dynamic that is reason for optimism in Lexington.