Duke and Kentucky will have a combined 3-5 record entering Saturday’s games. We talked to coaches to assess both basketball teams’ biggest issues.
After Tuesday night, the Duke Blue Devils and Kentucky Wildcats are a combined 3-5 entering the weekend — with the three wins coming against Bellarmine, Coppin State and Morehead State.
We knew the 2020-21 college basketball season would be weird, but Duke and Kentucky a combined 3-5 after two weeks of the season weird?
On one hand, it’s understandable. Both programs rely heavily on newcomers every season, and a shortened preseason without exhibition games or secret scrimmages makes the development process far more difficult. And to be fair, losses to Kansas, Illinois, Michigan State and even Richmond aren’t going to be frowned upon by most throughout college basketball.
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But losing to Georgia Tech by 17 points? Barely looking competitive against Illinois? That’s not what we’re used to seeing from Kentucky and Duke teams, even this early in the season.
So what’s going on with the Wildcats and Blue Devils, and can their issues be fixed moving forward? We talked to opposing coaches and scouts to figure it out.
3-point shooting and turnovers
Kentucky’s two most obvious weaknesses this season have been 3-point shooting and the alarming regularity with which the Wildcats turn the ball over. They are shooting 25.8% from 3-point range — a number that looked far worse before they shot 8-for-19 from beyond the arc against Georgia Tech. They also rank No. 274 nationally in turnover percentage, giving the ball away on more than a quarter of their possessions. Kentucky has turned it over 73 times in four games and has 47 assists to 73 turnovers.
“This has been fairly consistent with young Kentucky teams early in the season. They’ve not shot the ball well and have struggled to take care of the ball,” one opposing coach said. “It happens with younger players, regardless of talent. … Maybe in a normal year, maybe they start off with a few more games to help get that rhythm.”