Photo by Keyli Chisesi (Go Big Blue Country)
The most impressive thing about what John Calipari has done during his time in Lexington has been his ability to get individuals to share the basketball and sacrifice individual stats for team success. However, this group of Kentucky Wildcats is struggling to pass the basketball and the numbers prove it.
Struggling to share the ball doesn’t necessarily mean this group of Wildcats is selfish but it does show that there is some confusion and lack of trust on the floor. Overall, just by looking at numbers, this isn’t Calipari’s least passing Kentucky team. This group of Wildcats is averaging 13.4 assists per game through 25 games. Compare that to the previous eight UK teams below.
2009-2010 averaged 15.07 assists per game.
2010-2011 averaged 12.6 assists per game.
2011-2012 averaged 13.2 assists per game.
2012-2013 averaged 13.36 assists per game.
2013-2014 averaged 11.15 assists per game.
2014-2015 averaged 14.17 assists per game.
2015-2016 averaged 14.22 assists per game.
2016-2017 averaged 15.39 assists per game.
The low number of assists is an issue but if you look at the 2011-2012 season, the UK team that won the national championship only averaged 13.2 assists per game. While a higher number of assists would be ideal, the problem is the amount of turnovers.
One glaring statistic this season is the number of turnovers per game (13.84) is higher than the number of assists (13.4), which is a 0.97 assist to turnover ratio. That happened one other time during the Calipari era when the 2013-2014 team averaged 11.72 turnovers and 11.15 assists. That team did get things right in time to make a run to the national championship game.
For a team that struggles to score, they can’t keep giving away possessions by turning the ball over. In the loss at Texas A&M on Saturday, the Wildcats totaled 15 assists and only 12 turnovers. Even though it was a loss, those numbers need to stay that way, as the problem on Saturday was lack of energy on the defensive end of the floor.
Over the three games prior to the loss at Texas A&M, the Wildcats totaled 23 assists and 36 turnovers. I’m not a genius but Kentucky will burst their bubble if those numbers don’t change in the final three weeks of the regular season.