Archie Goodwin, Alex Oriakhi, Keion Bell

Archie Goodwin on Kentucky’s new team: ‘just a matter of them meshing’

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Three players that were members of Kentucky’s 2012-2013 team, which found its way out of the NIT in a first round loss at Robert Morris, were back in Lexington on Monday.

Kyle Tucker, writing for USA Today, caught up with Julius Mays, Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin, asking them about advice they would give to the the newest crop of Wildcat freshmen. Their responses? (Emphasis mine):

Mays: “From what I’ve seen, they’ve got all the talent in the world. Like I told them: If they can all check their egos at the door … they’re going to be real dangerous.”

Goodwin: ” “I feel like with the team that they have this year, just the talent alone is going to win a championship. It’s just a matter of them meshing together.”

Noel: “Establish team chemistry early on in the year and make sure a leader steps up, because a young team like that, they’re especially going to need a leader that’s always going to keep them like a rock-solid team and always keep those guys composed.”

Obviously, this is a little bit of insight into just what happened with last season’s Kentucky team and why they struggled.

But more importantly, this touches on the major concerns I have for Kentucky heading into next season. (Well, some of the major concerns, as rumors like this keep popping up.) Right now, looking at Chad Ford’s top 100 draft prospects leading into the 2014 draft, seven of the top 31 players are Kentucky Wildcats, with an eighth (Marcus Lee) popping up in the 70s. Draft Express is currently projecting five Wildcats to go in the first round in 2014, and that’s operating under the assumption that James Young and Dakari Johnson aren’t going to be in the 2014 draft.

Simply put: Kentucky is going to have first round draft picks — plural — coming off of the bench next season. They are going to have role players with one eye on the lottery. Coach Cal is going to have to convince those kids to embrace the role that he brought them in to play, or the team is going to once again struggle with chemistry issues.

I’ve long said that what made the 2012 Kentucky team special wasn’t the fact that they had six players drafted or that they had the top two picks in the 2012 draft. What made that team great was that their two best players and the two highest-rated NBA prospects — Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis — were role players. They were awesome, but MKG was a junkyard dog, a glue-guy that defended and rebounded and provided all the hustle plays while Anthony Davis was a defensive presence that owned the paint and gave Kentucky’s guards an outlet to throw lobs.

How often do you see that in a team?

How many blue-chip recruits and potential lottery picks are willing to fit into a role that the team needs them to play?

Will the players on this Kentucky team be able to embrace that mindset?

If they can, this team will win a lot of games and, potentially, do something special.

If they don’t, it will be interesting to see just how good the Wildcats actually are.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.