Kentucky is one of the best offensive teams in the nation…on paper. UK averages the fifth-most points per game, is 16th in offensive efficiency and a respectable 34th in shooting percentage. However, the Wildcats have been in a major slump offensively.
You likely haven’t even heard about this because Kentucky is winning basketball games, thanks to an improved defensive effort. However, the slumping offense is a big issue in Kentucky’s Sweet 16 matchup with UCLA, which has easily the best offense remaining in the NCAAB tournament.
Kentucky is averaging just 74.2 ppg in its past nine outings, which is 11 points fewer than the Wildcats’ season average. John Calipari’s squad has seen its shooting percentage, 3-point percentage and shots per game drop significantly in the past nine compared to season averages. These are all major warning signs for a team that turns the ball over nearly 12 times per game – Kentucky has also recorded 15 or more turnovers in three of the past nine.
The most obvious cause of this offensive inefficiency has been Malik Monk. There is no doubt that Monk is a freaky good shooter but his stroke has simply not been there. In the past nine games, Monk is averaging 15.8 ppg while shooting 35.7 percent from the field and 27.1 percent from deep. The freshman has gone just 6-for-21 during the tournament and has done most of his damage at the charity stripe.
Shooters are going to shoot but we are seeing that Monk doesn’t excel in any other area when his shot isn’t there. He is a better passer than he has been given credit for but his shoot-first mentality and Kentucky’s inability to shoot the trey – they rank 171st in the country in 3PT% – has left Monk without many options to kick the ball to.
I’m not here just to pick on a kid who is infinitely more talented than me and will soon be richer than I could ever dream of. Kentucky is also playing a much better defensive game to make up for some of its offensive shortcomings. The Wildcats have held opponents to 65.4 ppg and a mere 39.2 shooting percentage.
This recent defensive-focused game plan has been good to bettors, with the UNDER going 8-1 in Kentucky’s past nine but it still may be concerning considering the upcoming game with UCLA. The Wildcats are likely going to need to score at least 80 to top the Bruins, something they have only done once in the past month. Plus, containing Lonzo Ball and company is a much more difficult task than slowing down Mizzou and Alabama.