You don’t have to stop me because I know you’ve already heard this one:
Kentucky is everybody’s Super Bowl.
Yes, it’s high on the Calipari Axiom list, one of his Favorite Phrases that he trots out before, after and probably during games with teams that become inspired by facing his Wildcats.
He’s not wrong, but he could be more accurate: Kentucky seems to have become everybody’s Shot Doctor.
Line up to play the Cats and watch your three-point percentage soar. UK fans have seen it at a maddening pace this season and they’re not imagining things. The numbers bear them out.
“We have got to figure out how we start games,” John Calipari said after what was a come-from-behind win over Vanderbilt. “It’s getting ridiculous. It’s five halves in a row where we just start the game and we’re getting smashed.”
Shooters are doing the smashing. Sift through the play-by-play sheets and box scores of a majority of Kentucky’s games so far this season and you’ll see for yourself.
Duke: The Blue Devils hit four of their first five triples in the first four minutes. Things just got uglier after that.
Southern Illinois: The Salukis buried their first three inside the game’s first six minutes.
North Dakota: The Fighting Hawks missed only one of their first five in the first seven minutes.
VMI: The Keydets went nuts the entire game, nailing 19-of-38 treys. Greg Parham had the most fun, sinking 10-of-16. VMI buried six of its first nine triples in the game’s first seven and a half minutes. It cooled off by halftime, to just 7-of-16 but then found its range again in the second period, drilling 12-of-22.
Winthorp: The Eagles borrowed a page from the VMI playbook, realizing the only chance they had was in volume shooting from beyond the arc. They were 4-of-7 before the game was 10 minutes old. Like VMI, they cooled off before recess, finishing 7-of-17 but then sank 6-of-11 in the second half.
Monmouth: Shot a lot but didn’t make many, finishing 2-of-16. But the Hawks tried.
UNC-Greensboro: The Spartans thought they had it figured out, torching the Cats in the first half by making 6-of-8 three-pointers; their shooting eye failed them in the second half, when they went 1-of-12.
Seton Hall: This was the nightmare. An unheralded Pirates squad nailed 11-of-26, but it was how they did it that was so maddening.
Seton Hall was just 1-of-7 in the game’s first 11 ½ minutes, but hit the last two of the first half, grabbing some momentum. The Pirates followed up by draining 8-of-17 in the second half, but get this: They missed their first four, meaning they hit eight of their last nine – five straight to close out regulation, including one that sent the game to overtime. In the extra period they hit 2-of-3 and stole the game from the Wildcats.
Louisville: The Cards did hit their first three before the game was six minutes old. But after that, they didn’t have much to cheer about.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide was on fire early, bagging 4-of-5 in the game’s first eight minutes. They finished 10-of-23 and celebrated the upset win.
Which brings us to UK’s most recent opponent.
Vanderbilt: 7-of-25 for the game, but 5-of-5 in the first eight minutes, when the Commodores bolted to a 22-12 lead. The Wildcats got serious about defense after that and shut things down, winning 56-47.
Calipari’s “To Do” list is crowded, no doubt, but at or near the top has to be fixing his team’s three-point defense, especially in the game’s opening minutes. Otherwise, a team from East Directional State just might knock his ball club out of the NCAA Tournament.
Dead-eye shooting can do that.