It's not easy to find a weakness in this year's Kentucky basketball team. That's why they're the prohibitive favorite heading into the tournament.
I've heard grumbles about their experience, but UK has three guys in its core rotation who played in last year's Final Four. I think that's an overblown factor anyway. If you hear one other thing, it's usually something about a lack of three point shooting. However, the guys who attempt the most triples for their minutes played—Darius Miller, Doron Lamb, and Kyle Wiltjer—all make 37% or more from downtown. Wiltjer is even at 42%, and Miller is all the way up at 46%. I doubt we'll see too much of Wiltjer, given he's not in the top six-man rotation, but he's there if needed.
If you want to pick out one big weakness for this team, look at some of the close games UK had in conference play and in the SEC tournament. I found a pattern among several of them:
- 1/14: Kentucky 65, Tennessee 62 - two field goals in the final 7:00
- 1/21: Kentucky 77, Alabama 71 - two field goals in the final 9:00
- 3/9: Kentucky 60, LSU 51 - two field goals in the final 8:30
- 3/10: Kentucky 74, Florida 71 - one field goal in the final 7:30
- 3/11: Vanderbilt 71, Kentucky 64 - one field goal in the final 9:30
In the first four listed, Kentucky made plenty of free throws to preserve its leads. However in the conference tournament final, Vandy wasn't fouling and no one could make the critical shots from the field. This evidence here flips the script on the stereotypical strategy against a John Calipari team—put them on the line and let the mediocre free throw shooting lose it for them. That doesn't really work so well this year. Only Terrence Jones is shooting under 70% from the charity stripe among the main rotation this year.
I don't think the Wildcats were in serious danger of losing to LSU late, but they easily could have lost to Florida and did lose to Vandy in New Orleans. If they run into a great defensive team that doesn't put opponents on the free throw line much, like say North Carolina, Syracuse or Ohio State, then we could see a repeat of the SEC Tournament final.
Ultimately, I'm still leaning towards this Wildcat bunch giving Calipari his first national title. If it doesn't though, we're likely to look at the play-by-play and find a long field goal drought at the end of the game.