By KEITH PEEL
With the end of the college basketball season and what I consider the dead period of summer approaching (unless you are a Major League Baseball fan) I spent some time looking back at the successful and not as successful teams during the John Calipari era at UK.
Since UK has won one national championship, had one runnerup and two Final Four teams during that 8-year period I thought it might be interesting to look at what potentially made those teams successful. For this post I wanted to start by reviewing the point guard position.
As we all know guard play, especially point guard, seems to be a key for the Calipari dribble-drive system. Consistently throughout the years we have seen a long list of very talented point guards. The best, generally considered to be John Wall, De’Aaron Fox and Tyler Ulis, were all named to various All-American teams during their playing careers.
The other three point guards, Brandon Knight, Marquis Teague, and Andrew Harrison were also good but not considered in the elite group. Ryan Harrow, point guard on the 2013 NIT team, always seemed to struggle at UK and never seemed to fit into the system and culture.
One of the most interesting facts about point guard play for UK is that the most successful teams (2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015) have had what would be considered the least accomplished point guards in the eyes of the college basketball media and awards groups. Neither Marquis Teague nor Andrew Harrison were even selected as All SEC players during their college careers although Brandon Knight was named to the All SEC first team during his one season at UK.
It would seem that if Calipari brought in an elite point guard in the mold of a John Wall or De’Aaron Fox that team would be in great shape to make the Final Four and win a National Championship. So far history has not proven that out. The John Wall led team in 2010 could only make it to the Elite 8 with a team that had two first team All-Americans and was comprised of five NBA first round picks. The Fox led team, which also reached the Elite 8, had Malik Monk, a first team All-American and Jerry West award winning shooting guard, and Fox, a second team All-American point guard, and will most likely have three NBA first round picks. The 2015 team did have Tyler Ulis on that roster but the predominate point guard for that team was Andrew Harrison.
It would seem that having an All-American point guard as your building block for an NCAA Championship team would be a “no-brainer” but so far the results during the John Calipari era have not proven that out. It appears that John Calipari teams are most successful when the point guard is a “penetrate and distribute ” type player that creates shots for other players on the team. Both Harrison and Teague were that type player with Knight being more of a “score first” type player from the point guard position.
If past history is any predictor (and it usually is) it appears that UK teams in the future might be best suited to have a ” pure” point guard that looks to distribute first and score second to help the team be the most successful it can be and make a run at a Final Four and 9th National Championship.