We always watch Kentucky with an eye toward March. We watched on Saturday against Tennessee and mostly saw two players – Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – keep the Big Blue faithful off the proverbial ledge.
Who doesn’t wring their hands just a little bit when Marquis Teague has his hands on the ball?
Teague may be the one who decides how far Kentucky makes it in March. His biggest problem is he’s not John Wall or Brandon Knight. While comparing him to his predecessors may not be fair, it’s what fans will do.
Teague had only one assist and five turnovers against the Volunteers yet coach John Calipari praised him for his best defensive effort of the season. That’s good, because defense is needed as well. But too many times, it seems, he’s heading 150 mph to the basket with nowhere to go.
He’s not the outside shooter that Brandon Knight was last season or the clutch player that John Wall was the season prior.
That makes it tough to be Marquis Teague.
But let’s face it, Kentucky fans have become spoiled on superb point guard play. Teague is obviously a very good freshman. Why else would he be starting for the second-ranked team in the country? But he’s not Knight and he’s not Wall. Not even close.
The key on each of the last two teams has been the play of a confident point guard. Teague plays more like his age than either of his predecessors did. That’s not his fault. He’s not a ready-made-for-the-NBA kind of player. Teague needs a little more seasoning under Calipari.
We’re not used to seeing that.
But it won’t be Teague alone who decides if the Cats are good enough to be playing in the last weekend of the college season. You need a confident (capable?) point guard and, maybe, before this regular season is over, Teague will be that.
But Kentucky also needs Terrence Jones to start playing like the Player of the Year candidate he was touted to be. He’s a sophomore in the Calipari system, which makes him a veteran. Jones isn’t playing like a ready-for-the-NBA draft player either.
For whatever reason, he seems to have lost his way.
Granted, in the game against Tennessee it seemed he couldn’t move without a whistle blowing. But his body language shows the lack of confidence he’s showing these days.
Kentucky is good and talented, so good that they can play poorly and still win in Knoxville. But without Davis swatting shots and Kidd-Gilchrist making like Superman, as we’re becoming accustomed to seeing, that game in Knoxville would have been a Knockout defeat.
That the Cats can win with only two players excelling speaks volume of the talent on the team.
Tonight Kentucky is back in the friendly confines of Rupp Arena, where Calipari is still undefeated as the Cats head man. Arkansas visits for the 9 p.m. late nighter and ESPN’s cameras will be rolling.
Meanwhile, Cat fans will continue to hope Teague turns into either Knight or Wall and Jones tries to keep up with the Jones from the first eight games.
This much is for sure: They are going to need both of them playing like NBA prospects to hang another banner in the rafters.
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2648.