It was tough watching the final seconds of Kentucky’s loss to Indiana Saturday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. I know – Kentucky fans really don’t have much to complain about with the Cats appearing in four of the last seven Final Fours, including the National Championship in 2012. But as a Kentucky resident and fan since watching Kyle Macy in short shorts in 1978, I am entitled a moment.
This team gave signs of coming into to shape toward the end of the season and teased potential greatness at times. But throughout the year, the team lacked an identity and Coach John Calipari failed to establish what kind of team this would be offensively. Calipari was quick to offer the lack of effective frontcourt play as a problem area, but the combination of Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee, and Skal Labissiere need the ball. In the Indiana loss, the trio only got 14 shots combined. Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray shot the ball 38 times and made 17 of them, including a 1 for 9 effort for Murray from the three-point line. Cal made the point but it did not make it the court from this observer’s eye.
Ulis and Murray were probably the best backcourt in college basketball, but missed opportunities to make their team great. The duo forced a lot of shots that might have been saved with a little more offensive direction from Cal. Ulis was clearly the best point guard in the country, but would often look to force himself offensively at times. Murray and Ulis would expend a lot of energy on the perimeter dribbling and waiting to make a one-on-one offensive move. The bigs stood around and the team became very easy to guard.
In an alternate universe, the starting five for yesterday’s game might have included Karl Anthony Towns, Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles, and Willie Cauley-Stein. With the first players off the bench to include Julius Randle and a Harrison twin. That is the madness for Kentucky fans.