I've heard some claim that the call from the President jinxed things for the Wildcats but I put little if any creedence in that theory. I'd say calling a member of the World Wide Leader on national television a "jagofff" was the deciding blow. You just don't do that. But seriously I saw a couple chinks in UK's armor and when you combine them with an opponent that is playing over its head at home, then you've got a recipe for an upset.
Here's what struck me about UK's performance last night:
John Wall's inexperience cost his team last night. I get that he's probably the best player in America and more than likely the first pick in the NBA draft, but he needs to learn the art of deferring for the sake of his team especially when matchups dictate. Look, Wall can get his offense against anyone, but Demarcus Cousins and to a lesser extent Patrick Patterson could have fouled out a large contingent of the undermanned Carolina frontcourt last night had Wall made it a priority to get Cousins and Patterson the ball. Sixteen shots was probably too many for Wall especially when you consider 4 or 5 of those were horrible midrange jumpers early in the shot clock. Cousins or Patterson should have gotten touches on every possession until Carolina adjusted.
It's also looking more and more like Eric Bledsoe is the key to how far the Wildcats go this season. If he's able to establish himself as a second creator on the floor, opponents suddenly have very limited options to provide help to Wall and the talented frontcourt players. Simply put, when Bledsoe is facilitating offense, the strategy of overplaying Wall or doubling down on Cousins and Patterson is punitive. Bledsoe is so talented that he would be a starting point guard on 95% of Division I basketball teams and he's a deadly perimeter shooting weapon hitting on 44% from deep, so he needs to be a prominent part of Kentucky's attack. In this ballgame he only had 7 shot attempts and only 1 three ball combined with five assists in 31 minutes. Compare that to Wall's 16 shot attempts and 2 assists and you can see that there needs to be more backcourt balance for Kentucky to be at its best.
In the context of these first two points, I thought it was horrible strategy to have Wall log the preponderance of minutes guarding South Carolina's stud player Devan Downey. Downey is quicker than Wall and he takes 1 out of every 3 shot attempts for the Gamecocks so you know he's going to be a handful for whomever's guarding him. Why put your best offensive player on Downey and risk fatigue? So, as advertised, Downey takes nearly 30 shots, goes to the line 11 times and nearly fouls out Wall. Understandably, Wall had an off shooting night and fatigue had a lot to do with that. Watch for that come tourney time. If opponents can force Wall to expend energy guarding, he's not nearly as effective offensively.
And finally, late in the game when Carolina did adjust to Cousins' success by double teaming him, the freshman was not only slow to recognize the quick double, but he also looked uncomfortable looking to pass out of the double team. Demarcus ended up with 3 crucial turnovers and had his shot blocked a couple times by the doubling big to big defender. If he can learn to drop a dime with an interior pass to Patterson in that situation, he'd be dirty. Until he does, he should expect teams to throw bodies at him. I'm sure opposing coaches are taking note.
So, take these four factors and couple them with an opponent playing at home with a chip on their shoulder, and you get an upset.