Jamal Murray, Tyler Ulis, and the rest of the Wildcats are fresh off a 23-point victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide on Tuesday. Unshockingly, both Murray and Ulis shouldered the load on offense, chipping in 23 and 19 points, respectively. This is nothing new for Big Blue this season, as both Murray and Ulis have separated themselves as the two best players on the team.
Kentucky sits at 21-7 overall but is first in the SEC at 11-4. Their offense is incredibly potent as times, headed by Tyler Ulis’ great playmaking ability. However, Kentucky has struggled on defense at times and isn’t as lockdown as we’ve seen from Coach Cal’s past teams. While 67.0 opponent points per game isn’t bad, it would be the most that Cal’s defense has ever allowed in a season; it would be the first time since 2006-07 that a Kentucky team has allowed more than 67 points per game.
Frankly, Kentucky is severely underperforming after they were predicted to have a repeat of last season. Calipari was able to reel in four of ESPN’s top 50 prospects: Skal Labissiere, Isaiah Briscoe, Charles Matthews, and Isaac Humphries, giving him the second-best recruiting class that season.
None of those guys have lived up to expectations. Skal & Briscoe, the two who headlined the recruiting class, have struggled all season and need to stick around for their sophomore years; Humphries and Matthews haven’t been able to work themselves into the rotation.
It would seem like a “no duh” type of statement if I said that Kentucky is in trouble when Murray and Ulis don’t play well… no duh.
UK’s schedule has been challenging, but Duke, Louisville, and Kansas are the only teams that were ranked at the time of the game. In those three games, Kentucky scored 233 points total. The duo of Ulis & Murray accounted for 108 points, slightly above 46% of their total offense. For the season as a whole, they account for just about 46% of UK’s points (36.1 of 78.8 PPG).
What are the odds of the Wildcats winning a title? Eh, they’re not my favorite, but this year’s NCAA basketball season has been wild, so they have a chance. For them to advance deep in the tourney, Jamal Murray will have to average north of 25 PPG during their run, and Ulis will need to hover around 20 points & nine assists per game.
Those numbers are if the rest of the team stays at the same production, but it’s feasible that Briscoe and Poythress come up big for Coach Cal in the postseason.