UCLA 87, Kentucky 77 There wasn't much else to talk about from last night, so let's talk Kentucky going down to UCLA. And in a sense, focusing an entire Morning News post on one game goes against my main thesis, which is that you shouldn't overreact to a 40 game sample size, but let's do it anyway.
Remember, UCLA has already lost to Wake Forest and Monmouth. Kentucky annihilated Duke. Weird things happen in 40 minute sample sizes. And there were some fluky things in this game that went against Kentucky. For example, Kentucky hit just 29% of their jump shots here, compared to 48% for UCLA. Kentucky also has severe foul trouble - Skal Labissiere played only 19 minutes after collecting four fouls, while Alex Poythress and Derek Willis fouled out after playing a combined 31 minutes.
In other words, play this game again and Kentucky probably wins. My next projected bracket projection will still have Kentucky as a 1 seed. There's no reason for Kentucky fans to panic at all.
That all said, Kentucky is not as good as they were last season, and those problems were on display here. First of all, that bad shooting has been typical from this team. Their 3P% wasn't great last season (34.9%), but it's down to 28.5% this season. Their FT% has also declined, which is a sign that the 3P% decline is real. In addition, John Calipari's defense at Kentucky has always relied on pressing defense on the wings in order to funnel opposition into elite shot blockers in the paint. This year's team has Skal Labissiere, but he's nowhere close to the paint monster that Karl Anthony-Towns was. Last season, UCLA hit 5-of-21 attempts that were dunks or layups - last night they hit 13-of-22.
So what does this result mean? Not a lot, but it confirms what we already knew: This year's Kentucky team is a step down from last year's behemoth.