With all of the talk about Kentucky running the table, the Wildcats survived their toughest battle of the season in the KFC Yum! Center against previously unbeaten Louisville.
With the victory 58-50 victory Saturday, Kentucky answered several questions. However, a few more were raised as well.
Let’s start with the answered questions first: Can Kentucky run the table? Louisville is the last team the Wildcats will play that is currently ranked in the top 25. Check that box as a yes… at least for the regular season.
The remaining road schedule for Kentucky includes all SEC opponents which have earned a total of 11 AP Top 25 votes combined. This basically means that it will be Kentucky playing against its own egos the rest of the way while seeking regular season perfection.
Another answer came from the frontcourt toughness of Kentucky. Between the game on Saturday and the Texas victory earlier in the month, Kentucky’s big men answered the bell each time against two of the nation’s fellow elites. There were few doubts that Trey Lyles would be the best player on the floor for many teams throughout the country. Kentucky outrebounded the Cardinals by 14 and it seemed that every time that you looked, the Cats were collecting another offensive board. This is against a team that was viewed as elite on the glass in its own right. Plus, Montrezl Harrell never got into foul trouble at all.
The final answer was just a continuation of what has played out all season, as the Wildcats shut down another top opponent. Kentucky held a team that will be competing with Duke for a title in a deep ACC to 50 points on its home floor. It doesn’t get much more dominant than that. Louisville shot 25.9 percent from the floor and compiled only one assist due to this swarming defense.
The biggest question that was raised by Kentucky’s victory was in the back court. The Harrison twins shot a combined 3-of-16 from the floor with seven turnovers. Andrew Harrison was extra bad, as he committed six of those.
Combined with the Harrisons’ struggles, Tyler Ulis emerged on the national stage in a big way. Ulis ran the offense much more fluidly than Harrisons and was completely efficient in his 26 minutes. He had no turnovers and missed only three shots.
This dilemma leads to a couple of questions for John Calipari. The first question is how much longer can Calipari stick with the Harrison tandem over Ulis in the starting lineup going forward? Ironically, the Harrisons are shooting an identical 38.4 percent from the floor for the season. Ulis is shooting 48.7 percent and has nearly as many assists in four to five fewer minutes per game.
If Calipari is to make a move, it would be the first issue the squad could deal with pertaining to egos and attitudes. Given the amount of McDonald’s All-Americans and elite college players Calipari’s platoon works in this season, roles eventually need to be set in order to keep egos in check. If Ulis replaces a Harrison, how the other takes it and coexists on the roster is a huge issue. Additionally, Devin Booker has been just as good. He is nearing 50 percent from the floor as well.
The final question is, if you make the move to replace one Harrison’s starter minutes, do you replace both? Ulis and Booker have been considerably better this season than the Harrisons, but it is hard to replace their clutch nature. Even Aaron Harrison gave Louisville some déjà vu from last year’s tournament in the final minutes with a dagger 3-pointer… assisted by Ulis.
While there is no doubt that the victory on Saturday for Kentucky was huge for the program and the season, it is not without questions and only peaches and cream. Calipari still has some answers to figure out on this team moving forward, even though the SEC will not provide much resistance.