#2 Kentucky Men's Basketball Preview

Kentucky Wildcats

Overall Rank: #2
Conference Rank: #1 SEC
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Kentucky Team Page

2010-11: 29-9, 10-6
2010-11 postseason: NCAA
Coach: John Calipari (64-12 at Kentucky, 509-152 overall)

This year’s Kentucky squad has the best of what the Wildcats have been over the last two years under Coach John Calipari. In Coach Calipari’s first season in Lexington, he had a very young, but talented team. Last year the squad was a little more experienced, but not quite as talented. The results have been a trip to the Elite Eight and the Final Four. This year there is a nice mix of experience and young talent and Kentucky could take the next step. The return of Terrence Jones is a big reason for the high expectations. The 6-9 forward could have been a top pick in the draft, but he opted to return to school after averaging 15.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks as a freshman. Jones has beefed up a little bit and should emerge as a bigger force in the paint, not just an athletic forward who can finish above the rim.

Who’s Out:
The loss of Josh Harrellson leaves Kentucky without a true bruiser under the basket. Harrellson was never much of a scorer, but he was a big body who could push people around and hit the glass effectively. Jones’ new weight should help out a little bit as the Wildcats try to move on without a true bruiser. DeAndre Liggins was a part-time starter last season and the 6-7 wing averaged 8.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.2 steals. His overall numbers may not be missed, but Liggins was a solid defender and a leader on the floor. Brandon Knight followed in the footsteps of Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall as Calipari coached point guards who split for the NBA after one year. Knight led the team with 17.3 points and 4.2 assists and now hands the reigns off to another probable one and done prospect.

Who’s In:
Marquis Teague will take over for Knight and lead this team. Teague is not a shooter like Knight, but he is more explosive getting to the basket and will be playing in the NBA sooner than later. Kentucky will have some depth at the point with Twany Beckham, a transfer from Mississippi State who will be eligible in December. As great as Teague will be, what makes this the best recruiting class in the nation is Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kyle Wiltjer. Davis is widely considered the best freshman coming into the college ranks this season. Not long ago Davis was a 6-3 guard. Now he is a 6-10, 220 pound forward. He did not lose his guard skills or his athleticism as he grew and Davis will be a huge force on both ends of the floor from day one. Kidd-Gilchrist is a hard working wing who will provide a nice spark off of the bench and could work his way into the starting lineup if Kentucky needs a stronger rebounder on the floor to join Jones and Davis. Wiltjer may not be on the same level as Teague, Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist, but he is not far behind. In just about any other class, he would be highlighting the group. The 6-9 Wiltjer can score in the post, but he is mostly a shooter and he will give Coach Calipari another weapon off of the bench.

Who to Watch:
The Wildcats return a couple great shooters on the wing who should have another great season while the opposition attempts to stop all of the weapons in the frontcourt. Doron Lamb spent most of his freshman campaign coming in off of the bench, but he still ranked third on the team with 12.3 points per game and knocked down an impressive 48.6 percent of his attempts from long range. Lamb is a pure scorer and can do plenty of scoring even on those rare occasions when his outside shot is not falling. Darius Miller is the senior leader of this squad. Last season the 6-8 guard averaged 10.9 points and 4.6 rebounds. His size and athleticism make him a fine defender and he can shoot over most defenders and help out on the glass. With Jon Hood likely out for the season with a knee injury, sophomore Stacey Poole will be asked to fill in a few minutes here and there in the backcourt.

Final Projection:
Kentucky blocked a ton of shots last season and could be even better in that department this time around. The frontcourt is extremely athletic and will get up and down the floor. That may hurt a little on the glass, but it should not be too big of an issue. Kentucky can call on senior Eloy Vargas on occasion if they need a more traditional bruiser under the basket. This is a team that may go through some growing pains, but Coach Calipari has proven that he can win with young teams and this year should be no different. After a trip to the Elite Eight and the Final Four, Kentucky could take another step and win it all this year.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Marquis Teague, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Doron Lamb, Sophomore, Guard, 12.3 points per game
Darius Miller, Senior, Guard, 10.9 points per game
Terrence Jones, Sophomore, Forward, 15.7 points per game
Anthony Davis, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season

Madness 2012 NBA Draft Rankings:
#2 Anthony Davis
#5 Michael Gilchrist
#7 Terrence Jones
#10 Marquis Teague
#36 Kyle Wiltjer

Madness 2011 Men's Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#2 Anthony Davis
#4 Michael Gilchrist
#5 Marquis Teague
#20 Kyle Wiltjer

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