We are still early into this basketball season, and it seems like this Kentucky team still has a little growing to do. They’ve looked exceptional at times, but have also played flat and haven’t been consistent. The win over Michigan State was huge but was quickly overshadowed by a massive upset loss to Evansville.
In the John Calipari era at Kentucky, there is usually a specific player on the team that emerges at some point in the season as the “X-Factor”. X-Factors are the players who become the “go-to” guy on the team. The player that just seems to be able to hit shots when it matters, and who consistently performs at a high level.
Kentucky X-Factors of the Past
Historically, John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats have had that one player who just hits crazy shots. Whether it be in the clutch, or just at random times, these players have a tendency to show up when it really matters.
Players like Malik Monk, who constantly hit wild shots, was one of them. Jamal Murray, Tyler Herro, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Aaron Harrison are a few more. These players were scoring machines, and never failed to come up big in moments of need. Not only that, but they were reliable as well, and were trusted with the ball in their hands at all times. They’re the players who put up shots that made you say “yikes” until the ball goes through the net as we just watch in awe.
Kentucky is in need of one of those players this season.
So Who is Going to be “The Guy” This Year?
As of right now, I believe there are three candidates for the “X-Factor” title. One of these players will emerge as Kentucky’s primary scorer and will hit some big shots in big moments.
Let’s take a look.
Tyrese Maxey is probably most people’s prediction for this year’s X-Factor. He had a phenomenal debut against Michigan St, scoring 26 points and drilling some wild threes in the process. Since then, Maxey’s production has wavered. He’s still playing well but is relatively inconsistent. He hasn’t had a game that has lived up to his debut but has shown flashes of being a Jamal Murray type player. His ability to hit difficult shots along with a knack for getting to the basket makes him the most likely go-to guy for this squad.
Ashton Hagans is Kentucky’s vocal leader coming into this year. The sophomore has already been very solid this season and has shown an improved ability to hit jump shots. He’s one of the country’s best on-ball defenders and has proved himself to be an elite playmaker and passer. Hagans is also one of the best in the nation when it comes to getting to the basket, but struggles to make layups if they are contested. Hagans is UK’s most consistent player, but it’s unsure whether he’ll emerge as the X-Factor.
Nick Richards has had an amazing season so far. The big man has struggled throughout his college career but is looking like an entirely different player this year. He currently leads the team in points, rebounds, and blocks. Richards is looking like a bonafide star for the Wildcats. It’s unsure whether his stellar play is due to low-level competition, but if Nick keeps playing like this, I could definitely see him being “the guy”.
As of right now, Kentucky’s inconsistency is hindering their team success. The good thing is, Calipari’s teams always have a star emerge mid-season. I believe that will be the case again this year, and I think it will be one of the three players listed above. Despite a lot of issues, Kentucky can easily become an elite level team by March. A lot of this relies on the emergence of an X-Factor, so let’s hope that happens sooner than later.
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