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Kentucky Basketball 2011-12 - Team Analysis - Part One

We begin with a quick overview of the 2011-12 Kentucky Wildcats and will explore the team's strengths (which are many) and the teams weaknesses (which are few). We will just get the weaknesses out of the way and they are few.

Team:

Of course this team is young, with many of the key players being freshmen. The biggest question on the minds of all college basketball fans is; can you win a national championship with freshmen? We may have that answer this year as Kentucky has assembled the best recruiting class (on paper) in history, and Arizona seems to be on track to match that next year.

As we all know all Kentucky fans have visions of the 8th national championship banner being hoisted in Rupp but all Kentucky fans should be keenly aware that college basketball has a tremendous amount of very talented teams in the 2011-12 season. North Carolina, Ohio State and UConn are all loaded and any one of those teams (with the addition of 4 or 5 more) are more than capable of winning a national championship this season. The NBA lockout is certainly to blame for this return of pro-type talent back to the college game as Jarred Sullenger, Harrison Barnes, and Terrence Jones (just to name a few) all top ten picks, all returned to college. As a college basketball fan I have never witnessed such a return of talent in the modern era.

So our team is young and inexperienced but tremendously talented. By being young we can certainly expect the usual amount of stupid freshmen mistakes but the question is; how few (or how many)?

Perimeter:

Kentucky has a great cast of guards. If one weakness could be observed it would be at the point guard position as Marquis Teague will make the occasional freshmen mistake. There is a huge transition from the high school game to the college game. Teague will have to learn not to commit the silly fouls that freshmen make. One key observation of Teague's game is he is a pass first guard, a true point guard. If he is shooting 10 or more times a game expect a red-faced Calipari. If Teague gets into foul trouble then either Lamb or Polson will have to pick up the slack. Polson has seen quite a few minutes in the two UK exhibitions and the first regular season game.

Twany Beckham, a transfer from Mississippi State, should provide us depth at the point guard position once he becomes eligible after the start of the second semester. The bottom line is Teague is one of the top 5 point guards in the nation and with determination and the willingness to listen to Calipari in practice, and during the game, Teague should be solid at the point guard position. But watch out once the Cats begin league play as SEC road games can be frustrating at best. Expect quite a few games when Teague gets those 2 quick fouls early in the game. Thankfully Beckhamshould be available once we begin league play but don't dismiss the rise of Jared Polson as the season progresses, he is a very good point guard.

The shooting guard position is rock solid with senior Darius Miller and Doron Lamb. Miller is a match-up nightmare at 6-8 but as we have witnessed over the last three years Miller has a tendency to disappear and become a non factor. Miller will be overshadowed this year because of the awesome array of freshmen talent. If Miller, finally, breaks out of his shell the Wildcats will be very hard to beat. There is not much to say about Doron Lamb as he will likely perform as he always has. We can expect great things out of Lamb. So our perimeter game is solid, as long as Teague doesn't get himself into early foul trouble.

The Paint:

Forget about it, we have one of the most imposing frontcourts in the college game. Almost every single position on the front-line is a match-up nightmare. The only conceivable weak spot is the center position Just as we can expect more than a few freshmen mistakes from Teague we can also expect a few from Anthony Davis. Davis' body is under developed and we can expect him to get pushed around in more than a few games, especially in league play. When Davis is pushed out of the paint during a missed shot situation we can expect a few over-the-back fouls and Davis has to learn not to reach around his opponent when his opponent is receiving the ball. You can get by with this in the high school game but it is almost an automatic foul on the D1 level. Davis has to learn to allow the inlet pass and then use his amazing reach and defensive ability to challenge the shot. I am sure Calipari will address this issue.

If Davis gets into foul trouble early UK will have lean on Eloy Vargas who has been an underachiever so far at UK but has played very well very early this season. If Vargas can be relied upon to play 10 solid minutes a game with 4 or 5 rebounds, 4 points and a defensive stop or two then UK should have a very good year.

If Vargus plays well this year then UK is 8 or 9 deep (with the addition of Beckham in January) and UK will be very hard to beat.

There is not much to write about when discussing the weaknesses of this Kentucky team. If Kentucky plays with intensity, even for a half, on a consistent basis this year we will have an amazing year.

(Crossposted on The Rural Democrat)

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