John Clay

There is one area where this Kentucky basketball team must improve

Kentucky guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (22) drives down court during his team’s 79-70 win over Harvard at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017.
Kentucky guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (22) drives down court during his team’s 79-70 win over Harvard at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017. aslitz@herald-leader.com

Random notes:

▪ They’re getting better, but there is one facet of the game where this Kentucky basketball team must get better and fast: Turnovers. The young Cats are turning the ball over on 21.4 percent of their possessions, which according to Ken Pomeroy ranks 277th out of the 351 Division I teams.

Last season, when UK reached the Elite Eight before falling by two points to eventual national champion North Carolina, the Cats ranked 19th in turnover percentage.

After committing seven turnovers last Saturday against Monmouth, Kevin Knox is now tied for the team lead at 26 with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Knox has played 313 minutes, Gilgeous-Alexander 254 minutes.

That said, I think Gilgeous-Alexander has been a pleasant surprise so far. He’s shooting 50.8 percent from the floor, 41.7 percent from three-point range and 84.6 percent from the foul line. The freshman also leads the team in assists with 40 and steals with 21.

▪ Another kenpom.com number: Virginia Tech ranks 10th out of 351 teams in average possession length at 14.6 seconds. The Hokies visit Rupp Arena on Saturday. Should be fun.

▪ Surprised former UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown’s name was not more of a presence on the recent coaching rumor mill. After all, the past two seasons at Troy, Brown’s Trojans have gone 20-5 with a win at LSU. Thought that would have received a little more attention.

▪ Reeling from consecutive losses to Washington and Arizona State, Kansas should get a boost from Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe who becomes eligible on Saturday when the Jayhawks play Nebraska. The 6-foot-6 small forward averaged 9.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in 10 games with ASU last season.

By the way, after Kansas’ 95-85 loss to the Sun Devils last Sunday, Bill Self said, “This is the softest Kansas team I’ve ever coached.”

▪ Speaking of Arizona State, Bobby Hurley’s Sun Devils are a lot of fun to watch.

▪ Enes Kanter’s younger brother Kerem is making a name for himself as a grad transfer at Xavier. The 6-10 Kanter scored 17 points in Xavier’s Crosstown Shootout win over Cincinnati and 20 in the Musketeers’ win over Kent State.

▪ Still believe college football’s new early signing period, which starts Dec. 20, should work in Kentucky’s favor. It should limit bigger schools poaching prospects at the last second. Or maybe they’ll just do it sooner rather than later.

▪ Marvin Lewis is surely going, going, gone as Cincinnati Bengals coach. Think Mike Brown will be making a mistake if he doesn’t go outside the organization for a new head coach. Bengals need a fresh voice.

▪ Overnight television ratings for ESPN’s Heisman Trophy presentation show were the lowest in history. And no wonder. It’s a 15-minute show (tops) stretched into an hour.

By the way, my vote was 1. Lamar Jackson, Louisville; 2. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma; 3. Bryce Love, Stanford.

▪ If anyone could whip the U.S. Senate into shape, it would be Nick Saban.

▪ Louisville’s Anas Mahmoud is tied for fifth nationally in blocked shots per game at 3.67. Former UK target and current Texas freshman Mohamed Bamba is third at 4.0 per game.

▪ Ex-UK target Trae Young, current Oklahoma freshman, leads the nation in scoring at 28.8 points per game.

▪ Raise your hand if you thought Sunday’s Tennessee-North Carolina game (3 p.m. on ESPN) would be a top 25 matchup? North Carolina is No. 7. An early-season surprise, Tennessee is No. 20.

▪ After Mississippi State’s loss at Cincinnati on Tuesday, there are six unbeaten teams in Division 1 — Arizona State, Florida State, Georgetown, Miami, TCU and Villanova. It should be five after Georgetown loses to Syracuse on Saturday.

▪ Proof that incentive bonuses are out of control: Louisville football coach Bobby Petrino is receiving a $500,000 bonus for his team earning a score above 935 on the NCAA’s Academic Progress Report. (A 935 is not a particularly high score.) As Jay Bilas would say, “If only there was enough money to pay the players.”

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

  Comments