John Clay: UK men showing they're a Final Four-quality team

Kidd-Gilchrist's effort makes him a unique player

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJanuary 16, 2012 

  • Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday
    Where: LP Field in Nashville
    TV: ESPNews
    Radio: WBUL-FM 98.1; WLAP-AM 630; WWRW-FM 105.5

After seeing all 18 UK basketball games in person, this I believe:

■ I believe that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist remains one of the most unique basketball players I have seen. The sum of his effort is truly greater than the individual parts.

Consider his defense. The freshman made a key steal after Tennessee came out of a timeout with 4:46 remaining and the Cats up 58-54.

Consider his rebounding. When the Cats came out of a timeout with 1:28 left, it was Kidd-Gilchrist that rebounded teammate Doron Lamb's miss, which led to an Anthony Davis basket and a 62-54 Kentucky lead.

■ I believe the most under-reported statistic is the one that shows Kentucky has held its last 51 opponents under 50 percent shooting from the field.

■ I believe that Anthony Davis is the one person who could have blocked Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's hook shot.

■ I believe that at crunch time, this team can turn up the defensive heat.

At Auburn last Wednesday, the Cats held the host Tigers to six points over the final 10:51.

Saturday at Tennessee, the Cats held the Vols without a point from the 6:55 mark until Skylar McBee drained a three-pointer with 37 seconds left.

■ I believe Saturday showed Kentucky doesn't have to shoot three-pointers to win. The Cats took just five shots from beyond the arc, the fewest in the John Calipari Era. They hit just two. Kyle Wiltjer nailed one. Kidd-Gilchrist hit the other.

■ I believe Terrence Jones is slowly, but surely, rounding back to form. He's scored in double-figures four straight games.

■ I believe John Calipari will continue to say nice things about Tennessee — now that Bruce Pearl is no longer the coach.

■ I believe Jarnell Stokes will be a stud. He looks a little like Wes Unseld.

■ I believe Doron Lamb will snap out of his slump. Since his 26-point effort against Samford, Lamb has made just 18 of 47 shots, including just six of 20 three-point attempts.

■ I believe that what we believed before the season began is actually true — Kentucky and Vanderbilt are the class of the SEC, with Florida close behind.

■ I believe the Cats will lose either at Gainesville or Nashville. Maybe both. Starkville won't be easy either.

■ I believe Calipari's assistants don't get enough credit. Anthony Davis referred to his work with Kenny Payne as the key to his face-up bucket with 51 seconds left that put UK ahead 62-54.

■ I believe Marquis Teague is a tough kid. He's had his ups and downs this year. He's played like a freshman at a position his predecessors made famous, but he is improving.

Teague played his best defensive game of the year Saturday, holding the Vols' Trae Golden to a season-low two points.

■ I believe that, as a senior, Darius Miller will play his best basketball down the stretch, much as he did last year.

■ I believe that if UK encounters trouble in March, critics will point to the minutes logged. Saturday, Kidd-Gilchrist (39), Marquis Teague (38) and Anthony Davis (35) logged a combined 112 minutes.

■ I believe, in the end, it won't matter. This is a Final Four team. That's no guarantee it will get to New Orleans. But this is a Final Four-quality team.

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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