Kentucky Men's Basketball 2013 NIT Tournament Capsule

Kentucky Wildcats
SEC (21-11, 12-6)


This certainly was not the season John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats were hoping for. After last year’s historic run to the title on the backs of almost all underclassmen, people thought Coach Calipari had found some sort of loophole in recruiting. Previously, it had been a deathtrap to recruit players who would leave after one season. How could the team build chemistry and gain experience for tournament play? Everyone thought Kentucky may have found a way to succeed with freshmen who would only play one season. It turns out that those 2011-2012 Kentucky Wildcats were just a special bunch. That type of thing doesn’t happen with any old group of McDonald’s All-Americans.

Big Wins: 1/15 Tennessee (75-65), 1/29 at Mississippi (87-74), 3/09 Florida (61-57)
Bad Losses: 1/22 at Alabama (55-59), 3/02 at Arkansas (60-73), 3/07 at Georgia (62-72)
Coach: John Calipari (4 seasons at Kentucky)

Why They Can Surprise:
This team started out the year ranked very high. They stumbled a bit, losing three games by the first of December and fell out of the rankings before the calendar year was out. However, Kentucky managed to climb back into the top 25 at points during the winter; this is by no means a bad team, even without top player Nerlens Noel, who is out for the year with a torn knee ligament. They still have a cavalcade of star freshmen. Alex Poythress is a swift and fluid athlete capable of taking over stretches of games on his own. He should hear his named called within the first round of the NBA draft if he decides to enter. Archie Goodwin, the team’s leading scorer, is another freshman who may hear his name very early in the draft. Goodwin can score in many ways on the basketball court although his game is not a finished product. With major production from a couple more freshmen, including Noel’s main replacement, Willie Cauley-Stein, as well as “veteran” big man Kyle Wiltjer and guard Ryan Harrow, the Wildcats have a ton of talent all across the board and will be a fearsome opponent for anyone in March.

Why They Can Disappoint:
The reason this Kentucky squad has underachieved is the reason many of Calipari’s teams have: no experience. Relying on freshmen is a troublesome way to go. Not every team is going to have players at the physical or mental caliber of Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. These 2012-2013 Kentucky players are very good, just not historically so. When Nerlens Noel went down with a knee injury in mid-February, it put a larger reliance on Cauley-Stein, a big body with an unrefined game. It also drastically shortened Coach Calipari’s rotation and bench. Cauley-Stein moved from a reserve getting 20-25 minutes per game to a starter playing major minutes. Not to say Noel was the perfect player though, because he had trouble scoring in offensive sets. And that’s really the downside of this Kentucky team: they do not shoot very well from the outside and are dreadful from the foul line. Sheer athleticism can win a lot of games; it may not win as many in a postseason tournament as Kentucky fans are hoping for though.

Probable Starters:
Archie Goodwin, Freshman, Guard, 14.0 ppg, 2.7 apg, 4.5 rpg
Ryan Harrow, Sophomore, Guard, 10.1 ppg, 2.9 apg
Julius Mays, Senior, Guard, 9.4 ppg, 2.9 apg
Alex Poythress, Freshman, Forward, 11.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg
Willie Cauley-Stein, Freshman, Center, 8.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.1 bpg

Key Roleplayers:
Jarrod Polson, Junior, Guard, 2.8 ppg, 1.0 apg
Kyle Wiltjer, Sophomore, Forward, 10.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 73.9 (36th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 64.6 (126, 7)
Field-Goal Percentage: 47.8 (17, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 38.8 (24, 3)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.7 (210, 9)  
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.0 (108, 4)
Free-Throw Percentage: 64.3 (306, 12)
Rebound Margin: 4.3 (54, 4)
Assists Per Game: 13.8 (111, 5)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.2 (167, 8)

Last Five Postseason Appearances:
2012    NCAA    Round of 64 win over Western Kentucky
2012    NCAA    Round of 32 win over Iowa State
2012    NCAA    Regional Semifinal win over Indiana
2012    NCAA    Regional Final win over Baylor
2012    NCAA    National Semifinal win over Louisville
2012    NCAA    National Final win over Kansas
2011    NCAA    Round of 64 win over Princeton
2011    NCAA    Round of 32 win over West Virginia
2011    NCAA    Regional Semifinal win over Ohio State
2011    NCAA    Regional Final win over North Carolina
2011    NCAA    National Semifinal loss to Connecticut
2010    NCAA    Round of 64 win over East Tennessee State
2010    NCAA    Round of 32 win over Wake Forest
2010    NCAA    Regional Semifinal win over Cornell
2010    NCAA    Regional Final loss to West Virginia
2009    NIT        First Round win over UNLV
2009    NIT        Second Round win over Creighton
2009    NIT         Quarterfinal loss to Notre Dame
2008    NCAA    Round of 64 loss to Marquette

*all team stats through 3/10


See All Men’s Basketball Postseason Capsules