Kentucky doesn't have an offense. The Kentucky coach just rolls the ball out for practice, During the game, the players just shoot whenever they get the ball. They don't even seem to care who shoots the ball. Usually they shoot so fast they don't even try to get into an offensive set. When Kentucky gets a lead, they do nothing to hold on to it, they usually just continue playing at a break-neck pace. Good coaches, like the Maestro Dean Smith, know to pull out the ball and sit on it.
Kentucky often runs a system where players continually pass, screen and reverse the ball to find open three point shots. Other times they run plays to the post or post a guard on the blocks. They also score off of transition baskets caused by their defensive pressure and run-outs after a missed basket by the opponent.
Kentucky runs a system that often does not revolve around one player. Tubby Smith and Rick Pitino both coach all their players to be confident in taking the open jump shot when it is available. They then recruit players with the skills at all positions that it is deadly to leave one player alone. The result is the opponent must guard closely every player on the team or be burned. This opens the court for drives to the basketball, entry passes to the post and passing lanes to cutters. None of the players have the onus in the back of their minds when they shoot, wondering whether the coach would allow or disallow the shot. When they shoot, they are only worrying about making the basket.
One overlooked aspect of Kentucky's offense that should be obvious to any basketball fan is that the Cats virtually never take a three-point shot which is being closely guarded. Compare that with other teams, notably Virginia and Georgetown and there is a striking difference. If the shot is guarded, the Cats just keep passing the ball until they find a teammate with a better shot. The result being the Cats shoot a very good three-point shooting percentage.
People who watch a UK game and remark that the Cats aren't running a set offense are half correct but often miss what is happening on the court. The Cats are running an offense but it is so quickly-paced and does not revolve around two or three set plays and one or two players that it is extremely hard to defend against and prepare for. Also, it is not always better during the game to start an offensive set when weaknesses can be exploited in transition or broken plays.
As for the pace of the game, the Cats run and pressure continually to wear out the other team both physically and emotionally. The Cats are usually one of the best conditioned teams in the country and due to their bench, can usually wear out even the best of teams. Slowing the ball down when holding a lead only allows other teams to catch their breath and regroup.
When Kentucky has a huge lead and the bench players get into the game, Kentucky continues to run the type of offense the starters use. They might not press but they continue to move the ball and shoot the open three. The reason is quite simple, that is the way Kentucky plays ball. To expect the bench players to not play using the style expected of them is short-sighted. These players are being counted on to eventually come in and play on an emergency basis or as future starters and they need the experience of playing Kentucky's style. Actually, the coach probably does his most coaching during those "garbage times" as it gives inexperienced players some real competition to work against and improve. That is why you very rarely see Kentucky stop trying to execute at the end of blow-out games.
Return to Kentucky Wildcat Basketball Page.Jon Scott