You don’t have to be a Basketball Benny to know bad basketball when you see it. It has become abundantly clear to anyone who was watched this year’s Kentucky basketball team, that they just aren’t very good. They can’t shoot. They make too many turnovers. They take terrible shots. They have a low basketball IQ. And they can’t score, which is usually imperative to winning a basketball game. But other than that, they have looked great!
As lifelong members of the BBN, we have all seen some great teams over the course of our lifetimes. What we haven’t seen much of are teams like this 2021 squad, that just flat-out stink. With the possibility of a 3rd trip to the NIT barreling towards us like a freight train, I decided to host a make-believe round-robin to determine if this is in fact the worst time of the last 30 years.
The competition? The other 2 NIT teams of 2009 and 2013. If you are like me and tried to block the memories of those teams from your brain or if you were ever flashy-thinged by Tommy Lee Jones, here is a rundown of the staring 5, bench players, and KenPom rankings for each team. (parentheses shows where they rank out of the 3 teams in the round-robin):
2008-2009 Starting Five:
- Guard: Michael Porter- 1 ppg, 2.6 apg, .33 3P%
- Guard: Jodie Meeks- 7 ppg, 1.8 apg, .40 3P%
- Forward: Ramon Harris- 5.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, .52 FG%
- Forward: Perry Stevenson- 8 ppg, 5.9 rpg, .54 FG%
- Forward: Patrick Patterson- 17.9 ppg, 9.3 rpg, .60 FG%
Key Reserves: Darius Miller, DeAndre Liggins, Josh Harrellson
KenPom Ranking: 48 (1st)
KenPom Offensive Ranking: 91 (2nd)
KenPom Defensive Ranking: 27 (2nd)
2012-2013 Starting Five:
- Guard: Ryan Harrow- 9 ppg, 2.8 apg, .29 3P%
- Guard: Julius Mays- 3 ppg, 2.9apg, .37 3P%
- Guard: Archie Goodwin- 1 ppg, 2.7 apg, .26 3P%
- Forward: Alex Poythress- 2 ppg, 6.0 rpg, .58 FG%
- Center: Nerlens Noel- 5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, .59 FG%
Key Reserves: Kyle Wiltjer, Willie Cauley-Stein, Jarrod Polson
KenPom Ranking: 55 (3rd)
KenPom Offensive Ranking: 38 (1st)
KenPom Defensive Ranking: 88 (3rd)
2020-2021 Starting Five:
- Guard: Devin Askew- 5 ppg, 2.8 apg, .30 3P%
- Guard: Davion Mintz- 5 ppg, 2.5 apg, .32 3P%
- Forward: Brandon Boston- 0 ppg, 5.4 rpg, .36 FG%
- Forward: Terrence Clarke- 7 ppg, 3.0 rpg, .43 FG%
- Center: Olivier Sarr- 0 ppg, 6.1 rpg, .47 FG%
Key Reserves: Keion Brooks, Dontaie Allen, Isaiah Jackson
KenPom Ranking: 53 (2nd)
KenPom Offensive Ranking: 101 (3rd)
KenPom Defensive Ranking: 14 (1st)
To help compare the talent of each team, I decided to rank the starters from 1-15:
- Jodie Meeks (2009)
- Patrick Patterson (2009)
- Nerlens Noel (2013)
- Alex Poythress (2013)
- Archie Goodwin (2013)
- Olivier Sarr (2021)
- Julius Mays (2013)
- Brandon Boston (2021)
- Perry Stevenson (2009)
- Davion Mintz (2021)
- Terrence Clarke (2021)
- Devin Askew (2021)
- Ryan Harrow (2013)
- Ramon Harris (2009)
- Michael Porter (2009)
Without further delay, let’s get this thing started with the first matchup:
2009 vs. 2013
Backcourt Matchup: Michael Porter and Jodie Meeks (2009) vs. Ryan Harrow, Julius Mays, Archie Goodwin (2013). Who is guarding Jodie Meeks in this scenario? You know Meeks’ eyes would be lighting up seeing any of these guys. Harrow would probably be crying on the bench after Meeks hit a couple 3’s in his face. Mays didn’t have the size to heavily contest. And did Archie even play one possession of defense in his year here?
Frontcourt Matchup: Ramon Harris, Perry Stevenson, and Patrick Patterson (2009) vs. Alex Poythress and Nerlens Noel (2013). 2009 would have a very tough time scoring inside against Noel. Remember that Patrick Patterson didn’t develop his outside game until Calipari’s first year, and got most of his points under Gillispie in the post by bullying people inside. He wouldn’t be able to do that against Noel.
Intangibles: 2013 is by far the worst defensive team of this round-robin. Which is crazy to say considering they have 2 of the greatest defenders in modern history in Noel and Cauley-Stein. Not to mention a very versatile defender in Poythress. But there were too many guys on this roster who couldn’t guard a parked car: Wiltjer, Harrow, Goodwin, Polson. Michael Porter really struggled against elite defenders, but nobody in 2013 is elite enough to force him into enough turnovers to make a difference, and he is able to set up Meeks for plenty of wide-open shots.
Prediction: 2009 wins 70-66.
2013 vs. 2021
Backcourt Matchup: Ryan Harrow, Julius Mays, and Archie Goodwin (2013) vs. Devin Askew and Davion Mintz (2021). I never thought I would say this sentence, but, who is going to stop Archie Goodwin? If there’s anything we’ve seen form this year’s team it’s that they can’t stop teams who drive straight to the rim. And if there was one thing you could count on Archie to do, it was attempting to drive to the rim. Goodwin has a field day.
Frontcourt Matchup: Alex Poythress and Nerlens Noel (2013) vs. Brandon Boston, Terrence Clarke, and Olivier Sarr (2021). Sarr has struggled to score against strong, physical players so good luck when he’s got Nerlens guarding him! Alex has enough versatility to guard Boston or Clarke on the perimeter, and can be physical with them as well. Which they have both shown not to like.
Intangibles: What happens when a stoppable force meets a movable object? We would certainly find out when 2021’s offense (ranked 101st in KenPom) faced 2013’s defense (ranked 88th in KenPom). Neither of these teams have shown any amount of mental toughness, and I suspect this would be a turnover plagued, mistake ridden mess of a game that comes down to the final possession. In that case, give me the team that has a player who showed the ability to fight through adversity and actually knock down some big shots: Julius Mays. Mays hits a shot at the buzzer to win.
Prediction: 2013 wins 71-69.
2009 vs. 2021
Backcourt Matchup: Michael Porter and Jodie Meeks (2009) vs. Devin Askew and Davion Mintz (2021). Jodie Meeks averaged more points per game than Askew and Mintz combined. And even Michael Porter shot a better percentage from 3 than the ’21 backcourt mates. Tough to see even the veteran Mintz being able to do anything to stop Jodie from having another monstrous game.
Frontcourt Matchup: Ramon Harris, Perry Stevenson, and Patrick Patterson (2009) vs. Brandon Boston, Terrence Clarke, and Olivier Sarr (2021). Say what you will about “Razor” Ramon Harris, but he could lock down some guys on occasion. He could eliminate either Boston or Clarke from the equation. The Sarr-Patterson matchup could be interesting as Sarr could draw Patterson away from the basket and with a height advantage could shoot over the top. Patterson would bully Sarr on the other end.
Advantage: slight edge to 2009
Intangibles: 2009 would benefit greatly from having a veteran core of players compared to the freshman heavy 2021 roster. 2009 started 4 Junior’s and a Sophomore. But the main difference maker is of course Jodie Meeks. There is a legitimate possibility that Meeks could outscore 2021 by himself.
Prediction: 2009 wins 72-67.
Well, that confirms it. 2021 is officially is the worst Kentucky basketball team since the probation era. But in reality, did you really need to read this article to know that?