The game ended more than three days ago, but between traveling back from Lexington and high school football championships this weekend, things have been a little hectic on my end.
With Robert Morris’ next game later tonight, it’s time to look back on its previous one.
*** I don’t want to downgrade this team too much, but I don’t think people can be surprised by last Sunday’s result. Kentucky was a 4.5-point favorite in the last game, with a talented yet disappointing group playing on the road in a tournament in which, let’s face it, there was really nothing to play for.
Sunday, the Wildcats were a 21-point favorite at home, where they’ve lost only twice under John Calipari. Add in the fact that this is a team built around probably the best freshman class in the history of the sport, one that has something to prove in an early juncture in the season.
I was thinking Kentucky may win by about 28-30, but once you get over a certain margin of victory, it seems like splitting hairs.
*** A big part of the Colonials’ NIT win last March was its ability to get out to a 10-0 run and gaining some confidence in front of a charged home crowd. Even if it were on the road, getting out to a similar run on the road would have put a young, inexperienced team in a tough spot and neutralized a crowd of about 20,000.
Obviously, with that in mind, Kentucky went on that 17-2 run to start the game and that was really about all it needed.
*** The other side of that fact was that RMU really couldn’t have gotten off to a worse shooting start. It took them over eight minutes to make their first shot – from Aaron Tate of all people – and it missed 24 of its first 30 shots.
Andy Toole talked about it some in the postgame press conference, but these weren’t bad or rushed shots the team was taking. Most of them were pretty open looks, many of which came from the outside. It took RMU a while to start making aggressive moves to the basket and even when they got to the basket, the shots still weren’t going in.
It could have just been an off shooting night, but given the combination of factors that were present entering the game, it could have easily been nerves, too. That’s not something that people are necessarily are going to admit, but it sure looked like the case at times.
*** I mentioned it in my game story, but these are both teams that are having to work in new parts, but there’s a big difference when you’re incorporating a solid group of newcomers and when you’re incorporating five of the top 11 freshmen in the 2013 class.
For example, Jeremiah Worthem is kind of a homeless man’s* Julius Randle – a freshman with a strong body who has a strong inside-outside game and is a potential matchup nightmare. The obvious difference is that Randle is a projected top-three pick in a loaded draft class while Worthem, barring anything unexpected, will be a four-year player at a mid-major school. That kind of a difference in talent between the two teams showed Sunday.
(* The term “a poor man’s” is used a lot, but it’s usually if someone just isn’t quite as good as someone more accomplished like, say, “Matt Ryan is a poor man’s Tom Brady.” I’m sure someone’s already come up with this term, but when the gap is bigger, I use “homeless man’s.”)
*** Heading into that game, the reality was that RMU was going to have to double or triple-team Randle. It has limited frontcourt options to begin with and even Michigan State – the No. 1 team in the country – had to use the same strategy. What that does, though, is leave guys open on the perimeter and if the big man is a capable passer – which Randle is – those guys are going to get those looks and, more often than not, make those shots. Aaron Harrison’s statline speaks to as much.
*** I didn’t really realize it until checking the box score, but RMU actually took more shots (69) than Kentucky (57). Obviously, the difference is what you do with those shots and the Colonials missed 53 of those field goal attempts while the Wildcats made about half of theirs.
*** I’m not sure if it was caught on TV, but at one point, John Calipari was out near midcourt hopping on one leg and yelling at Aaron Harrison to defend. If some enterprising Kentucky fan out there could GIF that, that would be great.
*** I was obviously impressed with Randle, but if there’s an overlooked pro on that Kentucky team, it’s James Young. He’s absurdly long (for 6-6) and athletic with a pretty good-looking jump shot. I was kind of thinking of a smaller Lamar Odom when I saw him, but I’m not great at comparisons and I’d rather not subject him to the possibility of marrying a Kardashian in a few years.
*** There were almost too many signs of how much had changed between RMU’s first meeting with Kentucky and its one on Sunday, but this one in particular stood out to me (I mentioned it on Twitter during the game): UK point guard Jarrod Polson played 31 minutes in the NIT game and was sometimes the team’s best player on the court. Last Sunday, he didn’t get in until there were less than four minutes remaining.
*** In the loss, the Colonials averaged just 0.62 points per possession. That’s their worst mark in a game since a loss to Drexel in 2007. On the bright side, they weren’t that bad on defense, as the Wildcats averaged 1.22 points per possession. That’s a good number, but it’s actually their second-lowest of the season.
*** Overall, Sunday’s loss isn’t a great barometer of where this team is right now and where it can possibly go. Toole described it as a humbling experience and for the members of the team, it was a reminder that there’s a time to move on from that moment, no matter how great it may have been for them.
It could turn out to be a positive experience for them, though I’ve always been kind of leery of how playing in Rupp Arena in November prepares a team for a game in front of 1,000 people at Central Connecticut State in February. It’s a single game and there’s never too much to make out of a single 40 minutes of basketball. The remaining part of the non-conference slate will tell a lot about where this team is headed, but, as it is in any mid or low-major conference, it’s all about how you do once league play starts.