Three things we may have learned from Wednesday's Blue-White Scrimmage at Rupp Arena:
Throw The Comparisons Out: Any comparisons to last year's national championship squad probably ended around halftime of this scrimmage. You know, when the expected starters playing on the White squad found themselves trailing a Blue team featuring two walk-ons, two newcomers and a player coming off knee surgery by a 46-38 count.
That's not to say these Wildcats aren't talented or won't contend for a title this season. They certainly are, and can. But they're a long way from the finished product that we saw on the floor at the Superdome in New Orleans back in April, and it's a totally different team in just about every way imaginable right now.
They've gone from physical at the point with Marquis Teague to the wiry but bouncier Ryan Harrow.
They've gone from a shooting guard like Doron Lamb whose bread and butter was beyond the 3-point arc to a bigger, more physical 2-guard in Archie Goodwin who likes to attack the basket off the bounce and excels at getting to the free throw line.
They've gone the defensive-minded, energetic-rebounding dynamo Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at the small forward to a more offensively polished and emotionally-reserved 3 man in Alex Poythress.
No one's confusing Terrence Jones and Kyle Wiltjer at the 4 anytime soon, although both have their unique strengths and weaknesses. The Cats will likely get more consistent offense from the versatile Wiltjer, but will be sacrificing quite a bit on the defensive end of the floor.
And at the 5, where UK is trying to replace national palyer of the year Anthony Davis, well… maybe Nerlens Noel AND Willie Cauley-Stein can combine to take up that slack. But as John Calipari has warned us all along, don't expect either to reach that rarified air. Not yet. For now, the Big Blue Nation needs to let them be the best Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein they can be.
Cauley-Stein Fan Club Growing: The UK staff has been singing Cauley-Stein's praises ever since the 7-foot Kansas native landed in Lexington. As with many things Calipari says, one had to wonder if that was just an effort to give Cauley-Stein some love and offset the massive attention being heaped on the nation's No. 1 prospect, fellow big man Nerlens Noel, and the Cats' other highly-regarded signees.
If the Blue-White Scrimmage was any indication, it's time to believe the hype.
Cauley-Stein came out playing with a lot of energy and confidence, and he's a big reason why the underdog Blue squad was able to build a 25-8 lead in the early stages of the game. On one sequence, he blocked a shot on the defensive end of the floor and wound up finishing the break on the other end, showing why Calipari has described him as one of the fastest big men from end to end he's ever coached.
He mixed in a nice turnaround jumper with a baby hook shot in going 6-for-11 from the field for 14 points. He also pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds and blocked five shots.
Afterward, Calipari said he doesn't have starters locked in yet, but based on that performance, Cauley-Stein would be one of them.
Judging from the crowd reaction at Rupp, he's already become a fan favorite.
Polson A Bigger Factor Than We Think? Jarrod Polson passed up some other Division I scholarship offers when he decided to walk-on at Kentucky coming out of West Jessamine High School three years ago. Still, the junior point guard doesn't quite receive that kind of respect from the Big Blue Nation when he's on the floor.
Polson still gets the "Shooooooot!" cat calls from the Rupp Arena rafters whenever he touches the ball, as if he's some sort of lovable team mascot or novelty act. He showed Wednesday that he's capable of much more than that, scoring 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the floor, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out three assists. After the game, Calipari said he thought Polson probably handled the point as well as anyone on either squad.
It's tough to gauge where guys stand from a scrimmage like this. Many fans recall big performances from lesser-known players in past Blue-White scrimmages that didn't amount to much action during the regular season. But the hunch here is that Polson might be able to offer the Cats seven or eight quality minutes per game at the point if he can keep improving. Harrow isn't likely to log 32-plus minutes a game. The other minutes have got to come from somewhere, whether it's Goodwin or Mays sliding over from the wing or more time for Polson.
Three-Pointers: Blue-White Scrimmage
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