Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Pulse, Part 2

There are definitely years when I don’t watch the Olympics at all. But with the advent of the DVR, there’s almost no excuse not to watch some of it. There’s at least 45 minutes of content in every 5 hour window. And I’m always amazed how accurate Sports Illustrated is in its predictions. They nailed the Women’s speed skating medals perfectly, picking the gold, silver, and bronze on Sunday. And in the men’s short track final on Saturday, they picked a Korean sweep. Of course, one of the Korean skaters took out another allowing Apolo Ohno to take the silver, but they still get credit in my book.

Two weeks ago I set about checking the pulse of the 65 teams in the conferences with the top 5 RPI ratings. I covered 32 teams in that column and I’ll be revising those evaluations soon. (Marquette, Baylor, Clemson, and Florida St. have already moved to the plus side.) But in the meantime, here are the 31 mostly winning teams that I didn’t cover in my previous column. The ranking on the left is the Pomeroy Ranking. The conference record is listed in parentheses.

John Chaney Division – Middling record, dangerous team (continued)

75. Notre Dame (6-7) – I was worried about the lack of depth on Notre Dame this year, but I had to remind myself it wasn’t a big deal. This is the 3rd straight year Notre Dame has been among the nation’s leaders in fewest bench minutes. Then Luke Harangody was injured. Suddenly I remembered why the lack of depth was a real problem. But I thought the team played admirably in Harangody’s absence Sunday. Tim Abromaitis is already the next Notre Dame star in the paint. Mike Brey deserves a lot of credit for keeping this offense at the elite level. And while Notre Dame could probably just fold its tent right now, I think they have an upset in them.

55. Virginia (5-5) – A dirty little secret about the ACC in recent years is that this has been a bad transition defense league. Teams have wanted to be as flashy as North Carolina and prove they can play up-tempo, but when the ACC gets to the NCAA tournament, suddenly those easy buckets aren’t there. Suddenly the mid-level ACC teams get stuck playing 40 minutes of half-court basketball, and the results haven’t been pretty. So while other ACC coaches may groan at the thought of Tony Bennett bringing a plodding, methodical style to the conference, it may be one of the best things to happen to the ACC. What you want conference play to do is prepare you for the different styles that emerge in the NCAA tournament. And Virginia will test whether teams can win with a precision half-court attack. Of course as I write this, Maryland is blowing Virginia out by making quick transition passes and getting lay-ups off steals. But imposing your will and tempo, is a key lesson you want to learn before the NCAA tournament.

Kelvin Sampson Division – This won’t end well

There’s a double meaning in picking Kelvin Sampson here. First, Sampson often brought his team to the NCAA tournament with a mid-level seed, only to bow out early. Other than a Final Four run in 2001-2002, his net performance against seed expectations was negative. Second, Sampson had Indiana on top of the world with Eric Gordon and a fantastic team in 2007-08, only to see the season crash and burn due to recruiting violations. Thus any time things seem OK on paper, but probably aren’t going to end well, that’s the Kelvin Sampson Division. (Ironically, as the Kelvin Sampson team featured one sensational freshman in Eric Gordon, the first two teams also have sensational freshman in Derrick Favors and Lance Stephenson.)

27. Georgia Tech (5-6) – You didn’t have to know that Georgia Tech was very unlucky last year to know that with Derrick Favors the team would win more games. But the guard play on this team has been just atrocious. Iman Shumpert and Mfon Udofia are shooting near 30% from deep and turning it over on over a quarter of their possessions. You might expect turnovers against Clemson, but when Georgia Tech can’t even hold onto the ball at home against NC State (two point win), this is not a team that can win in the NCAA tournament.

61. Cincinnati (6-6) – The Bearcats defense is substantially improved from last season. And if you told me that, I’d have told you they’d be in the NCAA tournament without question. But the offense has been shockingly disappointing. First Cashmere Wright had shooting problems and lost his starting job. And now Lance Stephenson has seen his efficiency go in the tank in Big East play. Worse yet, while I thought Stephenson would compliment Deonta Vaughn and Yancy Gates and make the whole team better, all he’s really done is taken shots away from two of the Big East’s best players. The key for Stephenson may be simple. Stop wasting 3 possessions a game taking shots beyond the arc. Stephenson is only 20% from downtown. Maybe he feels he needs to take threes to keep the defense honest, but when you shoot at that percentage, everyone is going to play the drive anyway.

53. Oklahoma St. (5-5) – I sometimes catch myself referring to Oklahoma St.’s Keiton Page as a point guard. But that description doesn’t really fit. Sure, Page is often the one to dribble the ball up-court, but he does little to run the offense. His assist rate is actually the fourth best on the team and it isn’t elite by any stretch of the imagination. Oklahoma St. as a whole has one of the lowest assist rates in the nation. Oklahoma St.’s offense is almost entirely predicated on players going one-on-one. And while teams usually have someone who can guard the 6’6” James Anderson or the 6’5” Obi Muonelo, not many teams can guard both. But one-on-one basketball isn’t a formula for the NCAA tournament, and in a solid Big 12, it might not be enough to get there.

42. Ole Miss (5-5) – I spent a lot of time talking about how Northwestern’s season is close to over. The same can be said for Ole Miss. They have one more top 100 win than the Wildcats, but they are only 1-4 vs the RPI top 50. Ole Miss ends the season facing a downward trending Florida team along with a slew of SEC West teams. None of those games can substantially improve their profile. The game that really matters is this Thursday when Ole Miss hosts Vanderbilt. If they can win that game, they can glide by some inferior competition and make it in. If they lose that game, the SEC tournament becomes the only clear path.

54. Florida (6-4) – I’ll admit it. I’ve become a huge Chandler Parson’s fan. It isn’t just the buzzer beating threes out of a 6’9” guard. What I really love is his assist rate which sits at 15.3%. That’s not an elite assist rate by any stretch of the imagination, but when two to three times a game you see a 6’9” player thread an insane pass for a lay-up, you take notice. But this year’s team just takes too many bad shots to win at tournament time. After complimenting Billy Donovan for having the highest eFG% of any coach over the last 7 years, this year’s eFG% has been horrible. And when the eFG% falls that much, the problem is usually shot selection.

Rollie Massimino Division - Teams that might still peak late

I finally browsed a copy of the ESPN college basketball encyclopedia. There’s lots of good information in there, including a graphic that suggested that Rollie Massimino’s Villanova team was the worst team ever to win the national title. Wow, way to crush the greatest Cinderella story of all time. But this division is all about potential late season surprises. There are no guarantees. After all, Massimino’s 8th seeded Wildcats could have easily lost in the first round that year. But these teams could pull together after some tough early season losses.

(By the way, great to see Steve Rushin contribute to the book. Only Steve could appreciate the joy of a Bradley vs Pittsburgh battle on CBS. Hint: What were the team name abbreviations? He’s got his own site and a new book coming out if you miss his SI articles.)

51. Illinois (9-4) - When I watch teams, I’ll almost always credit them with the type of shot they get, not whether the shot goes in or not. And that’s why Illinois makes no sense to me this year. I’ve been screaming all year for the team to take the ball to the basket and stop settling for jump shots. And against Ohio St., the Illini did just that. But as the CBS graphic showed at half time, Illinois missed a ton of shots in the painted area. And in the game, the Illini were blown out. Perhaps the correct statement is this. Stick with what brought you there. When you play great teams you want to play to your strengths. And even though four-foot bank shots are a great shot for most teams, this year’s Illinois team is actually better at taking 10 foot jumpers.

32. Tennessee (6-4) – I’ll make the same comment about Tennessee. Did the Volunteers make the right call slowing the game down and playing zone against Kentucky? Fundamentally, when you play the best teams in the country, don’t you want to be playing to your strengths? If Tennessee’s strength is taking early shots, running up and down the floor, and creating chaos, shouldn’t they go down swinging? Maybe Kentucky has an absolute advantage in the full court game, but if I’m Bruce Pearl and I believe in chaos, I tell my guys to give it their best shot. Bruce Pearl did engineer the defeat of Kansas this year playing with six players at a slow tempo, but I was very disappointed that Tennessee vs Kentucky had only 68 possessions.

39. Mississippi St. (6-4) – Why won’t Mississippi St. give up on Renardo Sidney? Because the Bulldogs elite defense means nothing without an elite offense. Ravern Johnson is out-of-this world shooting 60% on twos, over 40% on threes, and almost never turning the ball over. But his teammates miss too many shots, turn it over too much, and don’t get enough offensive boards. Johnson’s gotten little hype outside of SEC country, but he has a major chance to make a name for himself against Kentucky on Tuesday night.

35. Texas A&M (7-4) – After Monday’s game, Kansas coach Bill Self saluted the fact that Texas A&M had the kind of defense to make his team look bad. But I found it a bit shocking. Texas A&M had surrendered over 1 point per possession in four of their last five games and nothing suggested they would be able to make Kansas look this ugly. By the way, has anyone else noticed how ESPN announcer Bob Knight is a repeater? He likes to say the same thing over and over again. It makes his games almost impossible to listen to. In pre-taped, well-edited segments, his insight is phenomenal. I loved the segment where he broke down Syracuse’s zone defense, saying the key is to draw two people to the ball and then find the open player. But in game situations, Bob Knight is a repeater. He likes to say the same things over and over again. And this makes his games almost impossible to listen to. I’ll agree with him on one point though, the same thing I accused Wisconsin of last week against Illinois. Texas A&M had a chance to beat Kansas, but they settled for too many threes. You can’t settle for three pointers late in the game and hope to beat good teams. Also, Bob Knight is a repeater. He likes to say the same things over and over again.

26. Louisville (7-5) – Is Louisville officially off the unlucky list after that win at Syracuse? I give Card Chronicle a lot of credit for identifying ahead of time that Louisville was a bad match-up for Syracuse. But this is still an underachieving team. There are four reasons, and none of them seem directly related to the extortion case. First, whether it is late game turnovers, horrible free throw misses, or a failure to take the big shot, Edgar Sosa always seems to make the wrong play in crunch time. Second, Louisville’s defense is the worst in the seven years Ken Pomeroy has been keeping tempo free stats. Third, the team is taking more threes than last year despite the fact that this is not a team strength. And fourth, the whole “New Jersey Nets” thing seemed to crush the team’s morale at St. John’s. OK, maybe that fourth thing is related to the extortion case, but not the rest.

13. Missouri (6-4) – Last year Missouri won the Big 12 tournament and made it to the Elite Eight. But the year after a breakthrough season is often rough. DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons aren’t walking through that door. And a new group of crunch time playmakers needs to emerge. But Missouri fans shouldn’t curse about this season. They should appreciate breaking the losing streak to Illinois. They should appreciate beating a very good Kansas St. team. And they should appreciate the team with the highest steal rate in the country. When Zaire Taylor walks across the floor on senior day, the fans will salute a lot of clutch threes and big steals.

3. Wisconsin (9-4) – At a certain point, I need to stop spouting the same story about how Bo Ryan wins with less heralded recruits year-after-year. But then you see a game like Saturday, and I can’t help myself. The Badgers played the Hoosiers who also have limited talent right now, but instead of playing a fairly even game, Wisconsin just destroyed Indiana. Sure part of that is Indiana’s youth and the home court, but the difference in performance was just incredible. With Bo Ryan the sum is always greater than the individual parts. But for this team to make a deep run, they desperately need another post player. Will Jon Leuer return? By the way, the missing Jon Leuer has something in common with Evan Turner of Ohio St. Both were high school guards who grew 6 to 7 inches late in their high school careers. I’m starting to wonder how effectively the recruiting services cover this angle. Does scout.com have a “late grower” category?

Gene Keady Division – Regular Season dominance, post-season heartbreak

My biggest memory of Gene Keady is his teams ruining my bracket year-after-year. I was a huge Big Ten homer in my younger days, and his dominant squads would constantly struggle as 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. Don’t you wish someone would go back and calculate those tempo free stats for Gene Keady’s Purdue teams. Were the margin-of-victory stats poor? Should we have expected his teams to struggle all those years? Or was it a legitimate surprise?

31. Vanderbilt (8-2) – Saturday, Vanderbilt played LSU and earned a sparkling 124.7 offensive rating. That’s not surprising. LSU is a terrible team. But Vanderbilt probably still wanted to throw away the game tape. That’s because LSU was playing some horrific zone defense. Horrific in that the only strategy seemed to be to foul every time the ball made it into the paint. Vanderbilt ended up with 43 free throw attempts on 45 field goal attempts. But LSU made some shots early, and in a game without any rhythm, LSU hung around long enough for some of us to watch the ending. As the free throw totals later reminded me, the zone defense wasn’t that effective. But I’m still starting to wonder if it isn’t the right strategy against Vanderbilt. In the olds days, Vanderbilt used to torch you if you’d play zone defense. But look at the trend. Three years ago, Vanderbilt took 42.8% of its shots from three point range. Two years ago it was down to 38.1%. Last year it was down to 34.1%. And this year Vanderbilt takes only 30.1% of its shots from downtown. The turnaround is remarkable (and not unrelated to the emergence of AJ Ogilvy in the paint.) But I’m starting to wonder if a team like Ole Miss, which can compliment its smaller lineup with zone defense, might be able to give Vanderbilt some real fits by taking away the paint.

24. Virginia Tech (7-3) – The first thing I think of with Virginia Tech is that I haven’t seen them on TV much. I don’t remember any of their games since the OT thriller against Seton Hall down in Cancun. And in fact, other than a couple of non-descript games against Florida St. and Clemson, Virginia Tech has been dodging the top 50 opponents in the ACC. The upcoming games against Duke, Maryland, and Wake Forest should say a lot about how good this team really is. As far as the numbers go, Seth Greenberg is like a Big 10 coach in ACC country. Normally, that’s a recipe for the bubble, but in a year where the Big 10 actually won the ACC challenge, it seems to be a good recipe. What do I mean by a Big 10 coach in ACC country? My coaching series showed that his adjusted defense is historically great, while his adjusted offense is historically ugly. And that’s never been more true then this year where the Hokies are 2nd in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency and outside the top 100 in adjusted offensive efficiency.

29. Wake Forest (8-3) – Wake Forest has the 2nd best NCAA profile in the ACC, and this is a good team. But this is a season that could have easily gone the other way. This team is 4-0 in OT, and I’m not sure where that fits in the NCAA criteria, but I bet they notice. Realistically, this is a team that can struggle at scoring for long stretches. Last year Wake Forest had three of the best post players in the country, Al-Farouq Aminu, James Johnson, and Chas McFarland. James Johnson left school early and I don’t think people give Al-Farouq Aminu enough credit for improving in Johnson’s absence. He’s seen his efficiency stay steady despite increasing his shot percentage from 21% to 27%. But what has happened to Chas McFarland? The third dominant post player seemed a natural fit sliding into the starting lineup, but he has not delivered. He’s gone from a 52% from the field and 72% at the free throw line to 46% from the field and 59% from the line.

28. Pittsburgh (8-4) – Sports often have a surprise factor. And for a good portion of the season, Ashton Gibbs was Pittsburgh’s surprise superstar. On the year, Gibbs averages 16.8 PPG with a 114.7 ORtg. But by mid-season, he was on the scouting report. In the six games starting January 20th, Gibbs was held to 11 points or less four times. Recently Gibbs scored 20 against Robert Morris and 24 in OT against West Virginia, but the question still remains. If an opponent shuts down Gibbs, who is going to step up and win the game for Pittsburgh? Against West Virginia the answer was Brad Wanamaker who drove to the rim and punished the Mountaineers before fouling out.

17. Georgetown (8-5) – With so little depth, it doesn’t matter if the opponent is Rutgers or Villanova, Georgetown needs big production out of its big three to win. While Austin Freeman and Greg Monroe are constant performers, Chris Wright is extremely hot and cold. And at this point, the splits are getting ridiculous. Georgetown wins when Chris Wright plays well and loses when he struggles. And since Chris Wright won’t play well six games in a row, Georgetown isn’t going to go far in the NCAA tournament. Another Georgetown point: I don’t believe Georgetown looked passed Rutgers on Sunday, but I will say this. Georgetown is playing a lot of zone defense this year. With no bench, they are trying to conserve energy. And if you play zone without energy, you look like Notre Dame. You give up over 1 point per possession regularly. This is at least one factor in why Georgetown seems to be playing down to the level of their opponents.

23. Michigan St. (10-3) – Statistically, Michigan St.’s defense is worse than last year. They obviously miss the lock-down defense that Travis Walton provided. But wasn’t Walton’s departure supposed to allow the offense to flow much more effectively? This is much more than the Kalin Lucas injury. Michigan St. averages less than 1 point per possession about half the time in Big Ten play. It pains me to say this based on Tom Izzo’s history, but I just don’t see this team getting better. Remember when Draymond Green became a star in the NCAA tournament last year? Do you really see any of the bench players on Michigan St. emerging this year? Austin Thornton seems resigned to a minor role on the team now. Garrick Sherman isn’t even rebounding very well which makes him a total waste of minutes. Derrick Nix is so afraid of going to the FT line that he’s tentative around the basket. Korie Lucious is just way too inconsistent. Sure, Chris Allen has been playing better, but it seems like he and Durrell Summers are the inverse player. Either one is playing well or the other, never both. Michigan St. might win the Big Ten this year, but unless this team surprises me, they won’t be going back to the Final Four.

4. West Virginia (8-4) – West Virginia has the top 100 wins to have a terrific NCAA profile. They have the blowout wins which are good for their Pomeroy and Sagarin predictor ratings. But last year and this year, this is a team that consistently fails in the big games. Last year, the problem was beating the good teams. West Virginia was only 2-8 against the Big East’s NCAA tournament teams. This year, West Virginia is a true national title contender, but now they can’t beat the great teams. In games against Purdue, Ohio St., Syracuse, and Villanova, they are just 1-3. And after a 3 OT loss put them in a tie with Pittsburgh, this is a team that continues to fail in the biggest moments. (Crud. My decision to call out West Virginia almost certainly insures Georgetown loses to West Virginia, much as my calling out of Rutgers worked magic.)

14. Villanova (11-2) – Offense is fun to watch, so the best games usually involve teams with great offense and bad defense. This includes Villanova, Notre Dame, California, Baylor (although less then recent years), Marquette, Louisville (which is a complete shock), Vanderbilt, Utah St., Xavier, St. Mary’s, Ole Miss, and Providence. In Villanova’s case, it seems to work out OK because they have such great crunch time execution. But as much as I love to watch Villanova play, when you don’t have a championship caliber defense, you exit early in the NCAA tournament. (By the way, I love how some people emphasize the free throw disparities, as when Nova lost to UConn on Monday. Um, there’s almost always a free throw disparity when you lose, because you need to be aggressive and try to foul to get back in the game.)

Dean Smith Division – Potential to Dominate

We tend to remember Dean Smith’s teams as winning it all. But he had a lot of good teams that came up short too. The next set of teams have struggled at times during the regular season, but they’ve played well enough that you can’t count them out.

12. Maryland (7-3) – Last year Maryland lost to Georgetown and Gonzaga at a neutral site and then they lost to Morgan St. at home just prior to the start of conference play. This year started out much the same. Neutral site losses to Cincinnati, Wisconsin, and Villanova, and a late home-loss to a non-BCS team in William & Mary left serious questions. Was this going to be yet another one of those years where Gary Williams had to scrap together some wins late in the year to save his job? But a funny thing is happening this year. Instead of Maryland getting older and North Carolina bringing in yet another class of freshman recruits that is better than Maryland’s veteran players, Maryland’s veteran players have actually gotten better. This year’s team has been blowing teams out in ACC play and has increased their efficiency on both sides of the ball. This is what’s supposed to happen with a former national champion coach and a team that returns virtually all its minutes. But the way things have gone in recent years, it still seems like a huge surprise.

11. Kansas St. (7-3) – I’ve argued without data that point guards always make the big three pointers in the NCAA tournament. Nobody every sags off the elite two-guards in crunch time, but they do sag off the point guards to protect against the drive. And I’m almost certain Jacob Pullen is going to hit a huge shot in March. At 40% from downtown with an elite assist rate, and elite free throw rate, I’ll be shocked if he isn’t a hero in one of the NCAA tournament games.

8. Texas (6-4) – Watching Texas fall apart in the last month has not changed my belief that this team could win it all. This hasn’t been a month where Texas was out-manned. They were simply outplayed. The execution has been dreadful. And while Rick Barnes NCAA tournament history is not replete with teams figuring it out late in the year and exceeding their seed, if this team could simply make better decisions, the sky is the limit. From a talent standpoint, Texas is in the same league as Kentucky. Damion James is simply one of the most athletic and versatile players in college basketball. Dexter Pittman is a human wrecking ball. And the freshman have been sensational. Jordan Hamilton and Avery Bradley are explosive scorers. And while J’Covan Brown has struggled from deep, his 90% FT shooting suggests his shot will come around. I don’t know if I really believe that Texas can start clicking at the elite level at this point in the year, but unlike a lot of teams, they still have a chance.

6. Purdue (9-3) – The addition of Lewis Jackson seemed like a dumb desperation move to me. Jackson wasn’t part of Purdue’s essential core. And while an additional point guard is always nice, he wasn’t even that efficient last year. But this is “the year”. It’s time for Purdue’s big Final Four run. Or so the experts say. Purdue’s core trio of Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson, and E’Twaun Moore have been playing together for 3 years and they are due. But Gonzaga is due too. Isn’t it time Gonzaga finally makes it to the national title game? The team of destiny stuff is silly. Teams don’t just get older and suddenly get handed trophies. They have to earn them. They have to take them. And until Tuesday’s game at Michigan St., I didn’t believe Purdue quite had that killer instinct. But there was E’Twaun Moore basically telling Michigan St. they didn’t have a chance. Nice little run there guys, but my team is winning. I want to see that in the re-match with Ohio St. If Purdue can beat Ohio St., Purdue is for real. Until then, the best team in the Big Ten is…

10. Ohio St. (10-3) – No one executes better in crunch time than Scottie Reynolds. John Scheyer is the definition of ruthless efficiency. Wesley Johnson is the perfect inside-outside combination. Damion James defines explosive. DeMarcus Cousins is a man among boys and the nation’s premier offensive rebounder. But no one scares me on the basketball court like Evan Turner. Literally, how do you stop him? He has the top assist rate in a BCS conference and he’s relentless taking the ball to the basket making nearly 60% of his two point shots. And at 6’7” he’s too tall for your guards and too quick for your forwards. Your only hope is that Turner turns the ball over. But that’s up to him and not you.

John Wooden Division - National Championship Contenders

2. Duke (9-2) – There seems to be some concern that Duke doesn’t have enough depth at the guard positions. But I don’t think this is a real concern in the NCAA tournament. You need depth in the post, because over 6 games, some of your post players are going to get in foul trouble. But guards rarely get in foul trouble. And with all the TV timeouts, there’s no reason Duke’s guards can’t play 35-40 minutes a game in the tournament.

5. Syracuse (11-2) – Per minute, Syracuse was a taller team two years ago when Donte Green and Arinze Onuaku each played major minutes for the Orange. But the post positions are not the critical position when you play zone. Syracuse is among the nation’s tallest teams at the wing and guard positions this year, and that’s what’s allowing this team to disrupt passing lanes and get steals. But can anyone score consistently against the Syracuse zone? Of course: A disciplined Pitt team did with a hot shooting guard. Notre Dame did because of its ability to catch and shoot quickly and avoid turnovers. And West Virginia did thanks to its ability to get offensive rebounds against the zone. But that’s why matchups are completely the key in the NCAA tournament. I could see a cold-shooting Kentucky team getting blown out by Syracuse. But with Cole Aldrich able to catch lob passes and Kansas having several great shooters at guard, doesn’t it seem like Kansas is the nightmare matchup for the Orange?

1. Kansas (11-0) – Any sensible person who wants to win their NCAA pool should pick Kansas. The margin-of-victory numbers are simply off the charts. I loved hearing how disappointing Xavier Henry was just because he scored in single digits for 5 games in a row. Well guess what, Henry is back to playing well. And even without Henry, I think Kansas can win it all because Marcus Morris has become an elite player. He’s scored in double figures in every single Big 12 game this year and he’s become the Jayhawk’s second leading scorer. He’s also one of the most efficient players in the country thanks to an amazingly low turnover rate and 57% FG%. Now I’m sure his incredible efficiency is because he never gets double-teamed. Teams have to stay on Cole Aldrich and stay out on the shooters, but the improvement in Morris’s performance is the largest factor that explains Kansas jump in offensive efficiency from 26th nationally to 2nd nationally.

9. Kentucky (9-1) – Kentucky was my pick for the national title in November (although not on the blog) and I’m sticking with it. But Ken Pomeroy’s post last month made me nervous. He says the argument for Kentucky is this one: They are toying with weaker opponents. My argument has been that it will take awhile for freshmen to learn how to play consistent defense in the SEC, but that John Calipari will get them there. But the idea that Kentucky is toying with opponents makes me nervous. You can’t just flip a switch and play elite defense. Sure Kentucky forced a lot of turnovers against Tennessee. And sure the defense has had its moments. But could Kentucky really do to Texas what Kansas just did to Texas? The answer is no. They aren’t that fundamentally sound yet. But by March? We’ll see.