One thing that kept the Kentucky Wildcats from more success in 2015-’16 was the lack of a true post presence. Derek Willis played an important role, but he wasn’t the answer John Calipari needed. This season, Edrice Adebayo has stepped in and given Kentucky an ultra-valuable post player to make the Wildcats even more dangerous.
Unfortunately for Adebayo, fellow freshmen De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk are getting most, if not all of, the attention. College basketball has been dominated by guard play so far this season and Kentucky is no different. Fox just completed a 14-point, 11 rebound, 10-assist against Arizona State on Monday and Monk is leading the team in scoring, averaging 19.3 points per game. It make sense that Adebayo would take a back seat to Fox and Monk, though the 6-foot-10 forward will dictate how good this team can be.
For Kentucky to succeed, it’ll need Adebayo to continue his solid play and provide a presence in the post, both on offense and defense. Teams coached by Calipari that have had the most success are ones that have at least one big man who can hold his own in the post. It’s the reason last year’s team struggled more than expected. Could Adebayo be the next big man in line for Kentucky, following in the footsteps of DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Caulie-Stein?
At this point, it’s too early to tell, but Kentucky will need Adebayo to be at least close to that standard for the team to challenge for a national championship.
Through Monday’s game against the Sun Devils, it’s not hard to see why Fox and Monk are getting the bulk of attention. Look at the teams Kentucky has played. There hasn’t been a real challenge for the Wildcats, something Calipari is actually kind of sick about. For the record, that’s Calipari’s fault, as well as his staff’s fault. Kentucky loves to stack its November schedule with cupcakes and doesn’t start to challenge itself until December. Those tests are coming, though, and it starts on Saturday.
Kentucky has a date with the UCLA Bruins at home. Again, this game will be dominated by guards, with Fox and Monk going against Lonzo Ball and Bryce Alford, but the battle in the paint will dictate this game. Adebayo and his 26 offensive rebounds (through seven games!) will have to deal with T.J. Leaf and Thomas Welsh. If he’s unable to hold his own in the paint, the Wildcats will drop a home game, which just doesn’t happen. The Wildcats will need guard play, but Adebayo will determine this outcome.
Monk and Fox have gotten the attention thus far, and with good reason. They’re high-scoring and incredibly active on the boards. They start the car and Adebayo puts it in drive. It’s a group effort for these three freshmen, but the big man will determine just how far Kentucky can go this season.