Marquis Teague isn’t getting caught up in the hype surrounding the Final Four.
“We’re not trying to focus on any of that,” he said. “We want to take every game one at a time and work on the task at hand.”
Teague is a big reason the Wildcats (36-2) are making a return trip to the national semifinals. Kentucky, the overall top seed in the Big Dance, will take on Louisville Saturday at the Superdome in New Orleans.
Teague has transformed from a scorer to a passer, giving Kentucky coach John Calipari a chance to utilize his weapons in the post and on the perimeter.
“For my team to win, (scoring is) not what I need to do, so I needed to make the adjustment and get other people involved, be a true point guard on the floor to give my team a better chance to win,” Teague said. “Coach (John Calipari) told me what I needed to do and what I needed to do, so I was OK¿with it.”
Teague said his biggest improvement during the season has been his “decision-making “ skills.
“(I’ve learned) when to score the ball or when to make a pass to one of my teammates,” he said. “My pace (is better) and (I’ve) gotten better with the speed of the game — knowing when to push the ball or even when to slow it down. I feel like I’m maturing as a point guard.”
Teague’s focus to becoming a better point guard “clicked” following Kentucky’s 73-72 loss at Indiana on Dec. 10 in Bloomington.
“I felt like I started getting better and I’ve just been trying to progress every game,” he said.
Teague’s progression has allowed Calipari to give Teague more freedom on the court.
“He’s been more confident in me every game,” he said. “He tells me to play aggressive and try to make plays toward the rim, because he knows I can finish really well and make plays for my teammates. He basically told me to make the decisions that I feel is best (for the team).”
He also has learned how to follow the flow of the game depending on the opponent.
“For a game to be in the 50s it’s a slow-down game for us,” Teague said. “More than likely it’s a tough, close game. When we’re up in the 100s, that means we’re pushing the ball in transition, trying to get easy buckets and just playing really aggressive and really fast.”
Teague favors the high-scoring contests over the grind-it-out style.
“It’s really exhausting and you’ve got to be in great shape to do it,” he said it.
Teague struggled in the first two games of the Southeastern Conference Tournament, but rebounded in the finals against Vanderbilt and has been more consistent during the team’s march toward the Final Four. He added that he has learned to “take the criticism, because most things start with me.”
“That’s fine,” he said. “I just try not to pay attention to it. As long as my team was able to get the win, I’m fine. (Coach John Calipari) told me to just keep taking the shot, because the confidence would come and I was able to do that against Florida the next game. I was able to do that.
During the South Regional semifinals, Kentucky avenged an earlier-season loss to Indiana and reached the century mark for only the second time this season.
“That was one of the better games we’ve played this year,” he said. “We scored over 100 points and that was a great accomplishment. I felt like we played great game. Indiana competed at a high level and they made tough shots. They made big plays and played how they were supposed to play. They are one of the best teams in the country.”
As the team’s floor general, Teague has developed into a leader, but likes to spread the wealth when it comes to team leadership.