Although it is has been nearly a month since the conclusion of the eminent 2016 Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament, college basketball fanatics and supporters of the Big Blue Nation are still disappointed on how the season ended. Here are a few reasons why Coach John Calipari and his Kentucky Wildcats did not live up to their pre-season ranking.
Poor Play of Skal Labissiere
The Port-au-Prince, Haiti native was originally a 5 star recruit. Before the season, the 6 ft 10 center was rated number eleven on ESPN’s top 100 list. Unfortunately for the Cats, Labissiere struggled for the majority of the season. Skal averaged 6.6 points per game along with 3.1 rebounds per game. His poor play towards the middle of the season resulted in him playing fewer minutes during remaining games on the schedule. Additionally, Skal was benched games and faced criticism from several N.B.A scouts during the season. Although Labissiere’s basketball sense intensified throughout the season, it was too late. By the end of the season, Labissiere continued to plummet on the majority of mock drafts boards. The Kentucky Wildcats season may have ended drastically different if Skal played the way he was expected to.
Tough Seeding in the Tournament
The Kentucky Wildcats were not given any favors by the Selections Committee. The Cats were placed as the number four seed in the East. In order to have a chance at advancing to the Final Four, the University of Kentucky needed to beat Tom Crean and the Indiana Hoosiers in addition to the University of North Carolina Tar Heels led by the talented guard Marcus Paige. However, the Wildcats were not deserving of the number four seed. At the conclusion of the regular season, UK shared the regular season title with Texas A&M. They later beat Texas A&M for the Southeastern Conference Finals before the March Madness Tourney began. It was later determined that although the Cats beat A&M in the championship game on a Sunday, the bracket was already made up. As a result, the Wildcats were stuck traveling to Des Moines, Iowa, which coach John Calipari compared to playing in “Anchorage, Alaska”. If the Wildcats were given the number three seed in the South, they likely would have played their games ninety minutes away in Louisville.
UK Lost Too Many Easy Games
By the completion of the regular season, the Wildcats lost five games to teams that did not make the N.C.A.A Tournament. Four of those five were against teams that were ranked below 90th. In addition, the Wildcats only had three wins against teams in the top fifty. The Cats lost easy games on the road to UCLA, Louisiana State University, Auburn, and Tennessee. Furthermore, the Wildcats lost to Vanderbilt in Nashville, to Ohio State at the CBS Sports Classic held at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, New York, and to Texas A&M in College Station. UK lost an extremely tough game to their rival Kansas at the Allen Fieldhouse. If the Cats had won this overtime game, their season could have been altered quite positively.
Buildup of Injuries
The Derek Willis injury costs the Cats immensely. The Kentucky native shot 43.9% from behind the arc before his injury. However, the 6 ft. 9 small forward sprained his ankle during the season. This proved out to be a very costly conflict for the Wildcats. Directly stated by forward Marcus Lee, “Derek is a crucial part of our team. He brings something a lot of our bigs can’t”. The Alex Poythress injury proved to also be a difficult situation for UK. The 6 ft. 8 versatile playmaker suffered a knee injury. The Cats missed the strong veteran presence and leadership Alex provided them. Poythress suffered several setbacks, and the Wildcats greatly missed Alex’s rebounding skills while he was out.
Although the Wildcats had a lackluster season, the hard work of the players and coaches did not go unnoticed. Assistant Coaches John Robic and Tony Barbee, Associate Head Coach Kenny Payne, along with the Head Coach John Calipari and his players displayed a remarkable work ethic all season. Although several players have left for the draft, a bright future lies ahead of the University of Kentucky’s Men’s Basketball team. Don’t worry Lexington, Calipari and the Wildcats will come out next year, better than ever!
University of Kentucky