1. Offense Flashes Potential
Offensively, the Cats may be further along early in the season than most of John Calipari's teams to date. They've got a clearly-defined leader in Tyler Ulis at point guard, who dished out 15 assists and committed only three turnovers, numbers that had the media pondering whether the sophomore from Chicago may challenge John Wall's school record for "dimes" this season. They've got a really skilled big man in Skal Labissiere, who, once he becomes stronger and more assertive in the post, should have many nights like the 18-point, 11-rebound line he recorded tonight. And perhaps most intriguing, the Cats knocked down 13 of their 34 treys with six different players making a shot from behind the arc.That's a lot of different outside threats, including an impressive 3-for-4 showing from Alex Poythress, who posted 17 points and looked comfortable in his return from knee surgery. Style-wise, Calipari is still mulling what the best approach for this UK team is, but it sure looks like a fan-pleasing, up-tempo attack is coming. The offense would have looked even better had the Cats not bricked their way to a 13-for-30 night at the free-throw line.
2. Defense Lagging Behind
It didn't take long to realize this may not be the same type of defensive club Big Blue Nation has grown accustomed to the last couple of years. That's not to say it can't be a really good defensive team by the end of the season -- the Cats have a lot of length and athleticism to frustrate opponents -- but it may not be fair to expect the smothering "block party" approach. From a shot-intimidation standpoint, there's no Willie Cauley-Stein or Karl-Anthony Towns or Nerlens Noel or Anthony Davis on this roster. Perhaps the best candidate, junior center/forward Marcus Lee, finished with a zero in his rejections column over 37 minutes of play. The Blue squad shot 60 percent in the first half, while the White squad shot 55 percent. The two teams combined for two blocked shots in the first half, a figure that Calipari bemoaned. "I asked them at halftime, either we're one of best offensive teams in the history of our game, because both teams shot 60 percent, or we stink defensively. It's one of the two," Calipari said with a wink and a smile that suggested the answer was a no-brainer. "... What do we have to do to try to win? What do we have to look like? And let me just say, it's not that, what I saw."
3. Fight Club
The longer you're around Coach Cal, the more you pick up on the "code words" he wants to pound into the Cats' psyche. The early frontrunner this year is "fight." He's uttered it dozens of times already, and we've yet to toss up the ball for an official game. The UK boss clearly likes his new team, but he's not convinced it possesses the toughness to navigate a challenging schedule and the lofty expectations that come along with being the preseason No. 1 team in the nation. You could see hints of what concerns him during the B-W Game. The defense was often soft by Cal's standards, and the rebounding did not look very formidable, especially when the Cats had three-guard lineups on the floor. The Blue squad finished with eight offensive rebounds, while the White squad pulled down seven. UK made a living off that stat column last season as one of the best offensive rebounding clubs in recent college basketball history. Cal sent a not-so-subtle message to Poythress in the postgame, suggesting he'd rather see nothing in his scoring column right now in favor of a slew of boards. Poythress, who Calipari has challenged to lead the nation in rebounding, had seven boards on the night.