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UPDATED: A look at our 2012-13 Kentucky Wildcat Basketball Team

Now that we know that there will be no surprise return of any starter, or two, from this year's national championship team we can effectively analyze our roster for next year's team. We do have some highly touted recruits and, as of now, the number one recruiting class for the forth year in a row.

Like with any team that follows a national championship year we must anchor our expectations, we must allow for growth and development. We will not have that solid senior (Darius Miller), we will not have two solid sophomores with Final Four experience, excluding Kyle Wiltjer of course considering his limited role on this year's team. So for the first time in the Calipari era we will have a unique fresh batch of Wildcats. Even in Calipari's first and second year he had a Patterson or a Liggins and Miller, this year he has nothing of the sort. To place Wiltjer on the mantle as "The Guy" as compared to the players mentioned above would be a mistake. So the cupboard is empty ready to be stocked with fresh goods.

We will analyze next year's team with "what we have today" and we will also analyze the team if a recruit or two comes our way, which is likely.

Projected Starting 5 (What we have today)

  • Nerlens Noel (6-10 - Center) - Freshman
  • Alex Poythress (6-7 - SF) - Freshman
  • Archie Goodwin (6-5 - SG) - Freshman
  • Kyle Wiltjer (6-9 - SF) - Sophomore
  • Ryan Harrow (6-2 PG) - Junior
Bench (In order of probable playing time)

  • Julius Mays (6-2 Guard)
  • Will Cauley (7-0 Center)
  • Twany Beckham (6-5 Guard)
  • Jon Hood (6-7 Guard)
  • Jarrod Polson (6-2 Guard)
  • Sam Malone (5-11 Guard)
  • Brian Long (5-9 Guard)
If we get Anthony Bennett he will likely start in place of Kyle Wiltjer simply because he will likely fit in better with Calipari's defensive scheme and style of play. Wiltjer would in turn be our main 6th man off the bench, a position he is more suited for.

Style of Play

Of course Calipari is going to play a style of ball that suits the team on the floor and this system has worked for Calipari in his first 3 years. The big unknown is; will Calipari be able to play the type of man-to-man intense in your face defense that he requires, especially if we miss out on Bennett. If Noel is to be a "Davis part two" type of shot blocker we will need Bennett, no doubt, a slow footed Wiltjer will lead to more fouls on Noel, just as in 2010 Cousins picked up 2 guaranteed fouls a game trying to cover for Bledsoe's lack of defense. If Bennett is on the floor then Noel can pick up a lot of help-side blocks just as Davis did this year.

As the team sits today Calipari may have to adjust his defensive scheme as Wiltjer will not be able to, time-and-time-again, maintain the type of defensive prowess that Calipari requires. Calipari may need to work in a zone package or two.

The backup situation may be a problem for the next year's team. Noel will have Cauley, and all we can do is hope Cauley can be a solid reserve for his first year. Harrow will have Beckham and Goodwin will have Hood (If Hood is able to play next year, more on that at another time). But Wiltjer and Poythress will be required to play major minutes as they are more or less on their own. If Kentucky can keep their starting 5 on the floor for most of the game we will yet again be a very long team. But as we all well know by now Calipari loves to play only 6 guys.


Calipari's 6 player rotation; Will it Work?

Calipari is notorious for playing only 6 guys. In 2010 we had a deep team but there were always 2 guys on Calipari's crap list (Hood and Dodson), and both players had extremely limited roles. In 2011 Jon Hood only averaged 4.7 minutes a game and attempted only 56 shots all year. Again, it was rumored that Hood was yet again in Calipari's doghouse. But Calipari played a 6 man rotation more out of necessity in 2011.

This year we had the heralded transfer Twany Beckham who many believed who be a major contributor only to discover that, as was the rumor, Beckham had found his way into Calipari's doghouse and played garbage minutes for the entire season. Calipari did make more of an effort to get Wiltjer minutes than what I expected, likely because Calipari knew Wiltjer would be needed the next year. But in big games during the regular season Wiltjer averaged only 1 to 2 minutes a game, if that. It was not until the tournament that Wiltjer began to play more.

So we can hypothesize that Calipari will use the same 6 man rotation method again next year. If we miss out on Bennett; then who will be that 6th man, other than Cauley?. Much like Vargus this year Cauley will have to allow Noel to catch his breath every once in a while. It will come down to Beckham and Hood and if I had to make a bet today I would bet on Beckham as he will likely be able to play the style of defense Calipari requires. Hood was slow footed before his ACL injury and from I am hearing Hood's rehab is not turning heads, his lateral movement is very limited. Calipari's defense relies on pure athleticism and length and we may suffer in both departments next year. If Beckham is relied on to sub for Wiltjer every once in a while then our front court length is average at best. With Wiltjer as a starter our weak-side athleticism is average at best.


Who will be our scoring threat(s)?

Harrow will find himself on the free-throw line a lot next year as he is pure greased lightening. His outside shooting ability is however suspect, much like Teague's was this year. I feel that Goodwin and Poythress will be our main scoring threats next year. Calipari allowed John Wall to be John Wall, he allowed Brandon Knight to be Brandon Knight, he did not however let Marquis Teague be Marquis Teague as we have a multitude of scoring threats. So I suspect Calipari will release the hounds early next season and evaluate who can get it done by playing "their" game. Goodwin has a great quick release and is a long - strong shooting guard. Poythress can flat out score if he drives to the basket, his outside shooting ability is also suspect. Wiltjer will likely be the main scoring threat early in the season. Expect Wiltjer to develop two or three new moves in the paint and we should see a lot of that fan favorite hook-shot as well.

It will take Calipari 10 or so games to figure out who will get those 25 shots a game. Noel is a natural center so his scoring ability is raw, so don't count on Noel being our main scoring threat. Like I said above I think at the end of the day that Goodwin and Poythress will be our two players who will score the ball on a consistent basis. I don't think we will have a season like this year where 6 players practically averaged double figures, every single game, we will not see that for a while.


Conclusion

Next year's team will not in any way resemble this year's batch of supermen. The 2012-13 Cats will lose quite a bit of athleticism, experience and length. We will struggle, early on, on the defensive end and may struggle to score as well. I don't think we will have that automatic scorer like a John Wall or a Brandon Knight, so we will have to wait and see who will score the basketball. Calipari will have to run some very solid set plays next year for this team to score on a consistent basis, there is no choice in that matter. We will not be able play that playground style of basketball and depend on our talent to score.

At the end of the day I think UK will have a good ball team next year. We have a great crop of studs coming in and considering Calipari's track record with regard to developing young players I have no doubt that we will have 2 or 3 draft picks next year. The key to this team is how we play defense. Calipari may need to install a zone package or two to survive league play. If Poythress or Wiltjer gets into foul trouble, which we can depend on with regard to Wiltjer, our length advantage evaporates.

We will lose a few games next year, so brace yourself BBN but I think we will make a run at the SEC crown and considering that the NCAA is wide-open next year, if we develop, we may yet again make another Final Four run, especially if we get Bennett. Not downing the players we have but Bennett is the key for a truly successful 2012-13 season and success at Kentucky is a Final Four or a Ring, period.





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1 Comments

  1. I wouldn't say the NCAA is wide open next year. There are alot of teams returning strong lineups, such as NC State, UofL, Indiana (I know you hate to hear the previous two), Kansas, MSU (with Dawson better), Michigan, etc. It is going to be tough contending with their level of talent.

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