Fair or not, though, Tennessee's win isn't the story of this game for national college basketball viewers: as always, the spotlight is on Kentucky and its star. And today, it's a harsh one. By squandering chances to help his team claw all the way back in the second half, John Wall did his part to help Kentucky lose, revealed himself as a potential chink in the Wildcats' armor and might have lost ground in the Player of the Year race, too.Wall, usually capable of creating open shots and making them, went 6-for-16 from the field, and missed all of his four threes. He had five turnovers to go with his six assists. And though Kentucky rallied back from a 19-point deficit to tie the game at 65 with 2:13 to play, Wall had two turnovers in those final moments, one on a charge. As Basketball Prospectus' John Gasaway astutely tweeted:
â‡¥â‡¥We've seen Wall win games late. But 2 turnovers in final 75 seconds today were huge part of Tennessee win.
The Wildcasts are still every inch the national championship contenders after this loss that they were coming in. Their starting five is superb, they have solid depth, and Wall still has the talent to carry Kentucky to multiple net-cuttings in the near future.
But the bad threes Wall takes, the 50-50 drives he forces -- the ones other fans often rightly claim are charges, and less convincingly submit as evidence of a star system -- and the late turnovers he commits are all marks of his immaturity as a player. And it can't help his Player of the Year stock that his miscues in a loss will be measured against Evan Turner's excellence (18/11/7) in an Ohio State win.
Kentucky is at its nearly unbeatable best when John Wall is at his mesmerizing peak. The problem? He's not always that great -- Turner has been more consistently stellar -- and if Wall has an off night in March like he did today, there's a strong possibility these 'Cats will be declawed come March.â†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.