SHANE SHACKLEFORD: What Does The Future Hold For UK Basketball? Glad You Asked
In today’s installment of Coach Shack’s Basketball Adventures, we will discuss what could be in the future of Kentucky men’s basketball in the form of the if/then statements.
I know, I know. You’re thinking, “Coach, what in the world are if/then statements?”
Glad you asked.
Simply put, an if/then statement means if I make a hypothesis (a guess) and it proves accurate, then the results of that hypothesis can be predicted accurately.
As I watched UK’s 80-53 demolition of Auburn Saturday afternoon at Rupp Arena, I thought about what could possibly be in the Cats' near future and how to talk about it in an interesting way; thus the if/then statements.
Statement 1: If Kentucky continues to shoot over 40 percent from the three-point line, then UK becomes nearly indefensible on offense. The Cats have been inside dominant all season offensively. But with PJ Washington and Ashton Hagans hitting from deep along with Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro, the Cats become scary with the ball. If Kentucky can beat you from deep or in the lane, teams have to pick their poison of what they want to take away. It’s difficult to take away one, let alone both.
Statement 2: If Kentucky can dominate Auburn with Reid Travis sidelined, then the Cats bigs have improved in ways we haven’t seen until now. UK strongman Travis has been the Cats' most consistent post player this season, but with Travis sidelined for a few games the opportunity for Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery to show their growth is there. Against the Tigers, the duo showed how their combination of athleticism and length along with the brute force of Travis give the Cats a wicked trio of bigs.
Statement 3: If PJ Washington isn’t the SEC Player of the Year, then there’s something wrong with the voting. No player in the conference is playing better than Washington. He’s doing it all. He’s scoring, rebounding, defending, and being a team leader. Witness his 24 points and six rebounds Saturday against Auburn as his contribution. Nicely done.
Statement 4: If Keldon Johnson isn’t the SEC Freshman of the Year, then, again, there’s something wrong with the voting. With all due respect to Washington’s heroics, the most consistent Cat this season has been Johnson. The freshman guard is averaging 15.2 points and nearly eight rebounds this season and for most of the season has been the emotional leader of the team while the Cats found their groove. Now with the emergence of Washington as the go-to guy, Johnson has continued his consistency. Against the War Eagles, Johnson had eight points and 17 rebounds. Wow.
Statement 5: If the Cats' defense continues to play at their current level, then the possibility of UK making the Final Four becomes likely. I love stats. Consider the following:
Kentucky limited Auburn to a season-low 53 points. Other SEC opponents who were held to a season-low by the Cats defense:
47 vs. Vanderbilt on Jan. 12
49 at Georgia on Jan. 15
55 vs. Mississippi State on Jan. 22
48 vs. South Carolina on Feb. 5
69 vs. Tennessee on Feb. 16
53 vs. Auburn on Feb. 23
Kentucky has won 13 of its last 14 games. During that 14-game span, UK has:
Limited the opponents to 38.0 percent from the field.
Limited the opponents to 31.4 percent from 3-point range.
Limited the opponents to 60.1 points per game.
Looks like national championship-level defense to me.
So there you have it, five if/then statements that could define UK's future. If they all come to pass, then the Wildcats have an excellent chance of a conference championship and a national title as well. Aren’t you glad you asked about if/then statements?
Shane Shackleford is a regional sports columnist from Speedwell, Tenn. You can contact him on Twitter, Facebook, or email at email@example.com.