We are a quarter of the way through the season and things soon start to get a lot tougher for Kentucky. The first game of this next stretch is a trip to Madison Square Garden for a date with Monmouth.
Here are the three keys to this one:
Try to manage Kevin Knox’s minutes
It is rare for Kentucky to lack depth in a position like they do this year at the small forward spot. That is the spot that Kevin Knox has been manning, playing superbly early in the season and quickly becoming the go-to player on this team. Knox averages 16.6 points and 35.3 minutes per game, both numbers making him Kentucky’s team leader.
This is all well and good while the season is still relatively young, but Calipari knows that he needs to find ways to get Knox more rest or else he might burn out before SEC play has even begun.
It is tricky at this point because both of Knox’s backups (Wenyen Gabriel and P.J. Washington) are power forwards that don’t have the full skill set to play the SF spot. There is an experimental lineup Cal wants to use, one that sees Kentucky go small with Hamidou Diallo shifting to the position, but that is still a work in progress at this point.
If Knox can shave even five minutes off of his average between now and tournament time then Kentucky will be better.
Kentucky has had one of the more frenetic schedules in the country over the first month or so of the season. It will have been seven days since the Wildcats left the court after their win over Harvard when they tip-off at MSG, the longest stretch that they have gone without games all season.
This will play out in one of two ways. Either the young ‘Cats will be rested and ready for action, tearing it up from their first possession and building a big lead with all their pent up energy. On the other hand, the team could be rusty as they are used to playing games more often, coming out slow and missing easy reads and baskets as Monmouth takes advantage.
With Calipari in charge we would lean strongly towards the first of these scenarios happening. The coach though is as much in the dark as we are about how his squad will react and Saturday will represent a learning experience for all involved.
Stop Micah Seaborn
The Hawks best player is junior guard Micah Seaborn. While Monmouth has been uncharacteristically slow out of the game this season – the Hawks are 3-6 while admittedly playing high level competition – Seaborn has been lights out on offense. He averaged 16.7 points per game and is shooting at 50% from three-point range.
The three-point attack is something that Kentucky will have to watch in general. Head coach King Rice loves to use that great equalizer in games, with Monmouth throwing up around 20 three-balls per game. The Hawks are a team where everyone seems to have the green light to shoot, but Seaborn is the one player shooting at a consistent enough clip that the Wildcats will have to be sure to switch on screens and never give him an open look.