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I told myself heading into Big Blue Madness I wouldn’t read too much into the scrimmage portion of the event.
It didn’t work.
Not after seeing that display. Yes, there was no defense being played — by design, as Calipari said he wanted players on defense backing away rather than risk injury — but we still got a glimpse of why Calipari loves this team so much.
Anthony Davis is simply outrageous. He’s definitely a non-traditional center, and we might not see him posting up someone that often. But if a ball goes up around the rim, Davis will get it. How many times did we see him, contorted or at an angle, manage to pull down a thrown pass out of the air? Perhaps the best part: Davis has only been able to do this for two years, since his 7-inch growth spurt during high school, and it seems like he’s still surprised at some of the things his body allowed him to do. It looks like he’s dunking on a Nerf hoops. Will he have lanes that open during the season to fly through? No. But that doesn’t mean he still won’t jump over and through everyone.
Terrence Jones showed enough to make me think he’s become exactly what Calipari envisions him being. He put the ball on the floor with purpose, rather than just trying to react to the defense and scratch something out of it. Again, there was limited defense on his drives, but the way he attacked was encouraging.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was described by Calipari as one of the best “slashers” he’s ever had, and that’s exactly right. Kidd-Gilchrist has a natural way of getting through defenders into the lane, and he showed some creativity in getting his shot off from weird spots.
I refuse to draw sweeping conclusions from the shooters — mainly Darius Miller and Doron Lamb’s success — because it’s such a small sample size and defenders weren’t exactly closing out. But they were great shooters last season, so I would imagine they replicate that success.
Again, these are just observations from one short scrimmage, and it’s dangerous to reach conclusions this early, especially when it’s about individual players. But these impressions are also reinforced by watching team practices before Madness.
About the whole team, though, I feel perfectly comfortable saying they will be a ton of fun to watch this season. Just look at the who was on the white team in the scrimmage: Miller, Davis, Marquis Teague, Kyle Wiltjer and Stacey Poole. That’s a starting five that would absolutely be a top-25 team, and it doesn’t have either of the star sophomores (Jones and Lamb) or the best defender (Kidd-Gilchrist). Madness was not a display of team cohesiveness or a showcase for the team’s understanding of the offense. But it was a dazzling glimpse of the talent UK has this year.
If that’s the only conclusion we can reach after watching Madness, well, that’s good enough for me.