BOZICH | Sluggish Kentucky shows flaws, flirts with getting Buff - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Sluggish Kentucky shows flaws, flirts with getting Buffaloed

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) – This wasn't supposed to happen. Not unless Kentucky played the Sixers.

Or Louisville. Or Duke. Or Kansas -- and the Jayhawks are coming up next Tuesday night in Indianapolis. You heard the pre-season talk. Even Larry Brown, John Calipari's pal, said something about the Wildcats going 45-0.

Buffalo, a team picked to finish fourth in the East Division of Mid-American Conference, led top-ranked Kentucky, 38-33, after 20 minutes of basketball in Rupp Arena Sunday.

The Wildcats spurted and scored the first nine points of the second half. All clear, right?

Not yet. Buffalo went back ahead, 43-42, at the first TV timeout of the second half. The Bulls led, 45-44, with about 13 minutes to play.

Then Kentucky got energized. Or determined. Or serious. Or something. The Wildcats outscored the Bulls 24-3 in a stretch of less than 13 minutes and rolled to a 71-52 victory. Buffalo scored 14 points in the second half, seven in the final 14:23.

Credit Tyler Ulis with 12 points, Trey Lyles with 12 and Devin Booker with 10.

But this wasn't a 19-point game. Check the next batch of college basketball ratings to see if John Calipari's team retains the top spot in both polls.

My three-point play on the Wildcats' start to the 2014-15 season.

1. What happened?

Buffalo played with more energy. Bulls' coach Bobby Hurley arrived with a solid game plan – defend with Wildcats with a 2-3 zone and work the clock on the offensive end. Take nothing but smart shots. Don't be afraid.

Hurley, the former Duke all-American, wanted Kentucky to take three-point shots. He also knew his team needed to make shots from the perimeter.

The Wildcats missed 11 of 14 three-pointers in the first half. The Bulls made four of seven. Kentucky turned it over 10 times and had only six assists.

Buffalo didn't have enough shooters to take the game into the final 10 minutes. Like most teams that will play the Wildcats, Buffalo was undersized. They were punished by UK on the offensive boards.

2. How does Kansas compare with Kentucky?

The Jayhawks are ranked fifth in the nation. Their fans are talking Final Four, too. They've got a pair of freshmen – Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre – that John Calipari wanted in Lexington.

But …

But what?

Kansas is tiny. Bill Self didn't start anybody taller than 6 feet 8 in the Jayhawks' season opening win against Cal-Santa Barbara. He also started a 5-11 guard, Roger Mason.

Comparing the five guys Calipari has started in Kentucky's first two games against the lineup Self started in the Jayhawks' only game, the Wildcats are a combined 16 inches bigger than Kansas.

Only two starters return from the Kansas team that lost to Stanford in the third round of the NCAA Tournament in St. Louis – forward Perry Ellis and guard Wayne Selden.

Alexander (nine points in 12 minutes) and Oubre (0 points in four minutes) both played off the bench in the Kansas opener. Self's most productive freshman was actually only a four-star recruit – Devonte Graham, who scored 14 points in 26 minutes. Imagine that.

3. SEC Shortcomings: Every year at the league's spring meetings in Destin, Fla., the Southeastern Conference has a pep talk about how the league can improve its basketball product and push more teams into the NCAA Tournament.

Smarter scheduling. Better coaches. Upgraded facilities. You've seen the list.

And then you saw the results from the opening weekend of the season. SEC teams lost four of their first dozen games. That's more losses than the four other power conferences took as a group.

The numbers for Friday and Saturday games: ACC 16-0; Big 12 9-0; Big Ten 11-1; Pac 12 10-2 and SEC 8-4.

Georgia lost on the road to a Georgia Tech team that is predicted to finish in the bottom three of the ACC.

Ole Miss lost at home to Charleston Southern, which lost 18 of 31 games last season.

Tennessee lost by 16 on a neutral court to VCU.

And, worst of all, Missouri lost at home to UMKC, a program that lost 20 of 30 games last season.

It's going to require more than marketing muscle to make serious basketball people look beyond Kentucky, Florida, LSU and Arkansas in the SEC this season.

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