It’s a small sample size, just five games against a primarily soft schedule, but here are five things we know about this 4-1 Kentucky basketball team:
1. This is an improved offensive team
According to Ken Pomeroy’s advanced analytics, Kentucky was 84th in adjusted offensive efficiency while stumbling to last season’s 9-16 record. This year, the Cats rank 12th.
Three-point shooting is one reason for the improvement. Last season’s team shot just 33.6% from 3-point range. That ranked 172nd nationally. The current Cats are shooting 37.8%. That ranks 69th nationally. Newcomer Kellan Grady is 12 of 22 for 54.5% from three. Davion Mintz is 5 of 11 for 45.5%. And Dontaie Allen has yet to find his stroke. Allen missed all five of his 3-point attempts in Monday night’s 86-61 win over Albany. He’ll heat up.
2. This is an excellent free-throw shooting team
Through five games, Kentucky has made 83.3% of its free throws. That ranks 11th nationally. Last year’s team shot 72.9%. That ranked 102nd nationally.
A persistent perception is Calipari’s teams struggle from the foul line. His 2008 Memphis team’s free-throw failures late in the national championship loss to Kansas fed the narrative. At Kentucky, however, that hasn’t always been the case.
In fact, Calipari’s 2019-20 UK team led the nation in free-throw shooting at 79.7%. This year’s club is on a similar path. Sahvir Wheeler is 10 of 11 at the line for 90.9%. Only 5-foot-9 but unafraid to take it to the rim, he should draw more fouls. Keion Brooks is 11 of 13 at the line for 84.6%. TyTy Washington is 10 of 12 for 83.3%.
True, this team has yet to face pressure-packed moments at the line. Still, it’s a good start.
3. The transfers are making a difference