John Clay: Dark clouds, silver linings for Calipari's Cats

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistDecember 8, 2013 

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari was unhappy with a missed free throw as Baylor defeated #3 Kentucky 67-62 on Friday December 6, 2013 in Dallas, TX. Photos by Mark Cornelison | Staff

Dark clouds and silver linings for Kentucky basketball after the trouble in Texas.

Dark cloud: It is Dec. 9 and the team that was not supposed to lose a game has already lost two games.

Silver lining: It is Dec. 9.

Dark cloud: Kentucky is 7-2.

Silver lining: Kansas, North Carolina and Duke each have two losses.

Dark cloud: Kentucky lost to a team picked to finish third in the Big 12 this season.

Silver lining: Kansas lost to a team (Colorado) picked to finish third in the Pac-12.

Dark cloud: Through nine games, the Kentucky basketball team has managed just 36 steals. Steal totals for John Calipari's previous four UK teams after nine games: 70, 56, 76 and 66.

Silver lining: Better on-ball pressure and overall intensity produces more steals. Those are fixable, if the players are willing to put forth the effort to fix it.

Dark cloud: Body language continues to be an issue with the Harrison twins. Both are prone to frowns and moping and head-holding when called for a foul or when things go wrong.

Silver lining: Freshmen are often emotional. The Harrison twins are freshmen.

Dark cloud: There doesn't seem to be an Anthony Davis or a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on this Kentucky team.

Silver lining: Kentucky reached the 2011 Final Four, where it lost by a single point to eventual champion Connecticut, without Anthony Davis or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Dark cloud: Kentucky made just 12 of 23 free throws Friday night inside the cavern that is AT&T Stadium, which is the same site as this year's Final Four.

Silver lining: There is a long time between now and the Final Four for the Kentucky players to walk those 12 steps — Calipari's approximation — from the Wildcat Coal Lodge to the Joe Craft Center and practice free throws.

Dark cloud: UK was battered on the boards by Baylor, a team that could match the Cats in height and length.

Silver lining: There are few teams remaining on the Kentucky schedule that can match the Cats in height and length.

Dark cloud: Teams seem to have figured out how to defend Julius Randle.

Silver lining: If Randle is as good as advertised, he will adjust.

Dark cloud: This is not a quick Kentucky basketball team.

Silver lining: All along, Calipari has said he believes this team has the makings to be a good zone defense team. We may see more of that.

Dark cloud: After Calipari said his team was more "cohesive" against zone defenses, Kentucky seemed to have no clue how to attack Baylor's zone on Friday night.

Silver lining: It's Dec. 9.

Dark cloud: Kentucky fans I traveled with on the way back from Dallas on Friday talked as though there is a crisis.

Silver lining: One of Calipari's favorite sayings is, "From crisis comes change."

Dark cloud: December doesn't get any easier with unbeaten Boise State, host North Carolina, Belmont (which beat North Carolina) and Louisville left to play.

Silver lining: You can't get better playing Popcorn State.

Dark cloud: The feeling is beginning to set in that this Kentucky basketball team was oversold, that it's not the greatest collection of talent in the history of the sport — or something like that — as we were led to believe.

Silver lining: Before Friday night's game, ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said he doesn't think there is a great team this year, that the top teams will beat up on each other. As for the favorite to win the title, it's still wide open.


TUESDAY

Boise Stateat Kentucky

When: 9 p.m.

John Clay: 859-231-3226.E-mail: jclay@herald-leader.com. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com.Twitter: @johnclayiv.

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