Sporting News college basketball columnist Mike DeCourcy sees the nation’s top teams play all season and has also covered coach John Calipari’s teams at Massachusetts, Memphis and Kentucky.
Here are a few thoughts DeCourcy — and you can find his work at http://www.sportingnewstoday.com — shared about the Wildcats:
Question: Who is the best player on Kentucky's team this year?
DeCourcy: “The player who has impressed me the most in the times I've seen UK is Brandon Knight. He plays under control, he makes big shots, he gets the team into its offense. I'm sure there are mistakes he makes, like any freshman, but they are where they are because of Knight. I don't see him as a transcendent, one-and-done talent; not that this should be the standard, but any time you praise a freshman people want him to short-cut his development. Brandon needs to get more mature, stronger to have a chance to perform in the NBA. I think he'll get there soon.”
Question: Do you think Kentucky has overachieved, underachieved or done about what it should have?
DeCourcy: “I'd say it has underachieved a shade in the SEC during the regular season. It certainly was a league in which road losses at an Ole Miss or Arkansas should not have occurred. Win those, and you're at least in the hunt for the league. I've expressed many times my belief that the veteran players too frequently were not impactful in road games, leaving Knight and Terrence Jones to carry too much of the attack. It will be interesting to see if perhaps the veterans will be more comfortable in neutral-court situations as they were in the SEC Tournament.”
Question: How many NCAA games would you expect Kentucky to win if it plays well?
DeCourcy: “Matchups dictate most everything in the tournament. I will say that Kentucky is one of the rare teams in this year's field that takes the court with multiple future pros. There are maybe eight or nine such teams, so to be in that group is promising. UK is disadvantaged in that it is unable to get much rest for its star players, and I think you see the fatigue evident in some of their mental breakdowns at the defensive end late in games. The tournament generally allows players to get more rest during the games because of the longer timeouts, so that could help alleviate this concern.
Question: How many UK players do you expect to leave for the NBA this year?
DeCourcy: “I would hope the only one would be Josh Harrellson. There is no one on the roster who is ready to perform at that level, and there is no reason to leave if you're just going to sit. What's it done for Daniel Orton? Even Patrick Patterson, who'd been at UK three years, has had to spend time in the D-League. Jones needs to continue growing his game, and that's not going to happen either sitting on the end of a team's bench or waiting out a lockout to be resolved.
Question: Do you think Calipari is now totally comfortable at Kentucky and could be here to stay for quite a while now?
DeCourcy: “Where does one go from Kentucky? This is the type of job he's dreamed of having his entire career. The only reason to move onto the NBA would be money, and money is not an issue for John. I can't imagine him being ready to retire anytime soon. He'd go nuts. I would imagine he'll coach there as long as they'll have him.”