2013-14 College Basketball Season Preview: Kentucky

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
All other e-mail, including advertising and link proposals, send to: [email protected]

Kentucky Wildcats (Last Year: 21-12, 12-6 in SEC)

2013-14 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Willie Cauley-Stein (Soph)/Dakari Johnson (Fr)

PF: Julius Randle (Fr)/Marcus Lee (Fr)/Derek Willis (Fr)

SF: Alex Poythress (Soph)/Jon Hood (Sr)

SG: Aaron Harrison (Fr)/James Young (Fr)

PG: Andrew Harrison (Fr)/Jarrod Polson (Sr)/Dominique Hawkins (Fr)

Gone: F/C-Nerlens Noel, G-Archie Goodwin, SG-Julius Mays, PF-Kyle Wiltjer (transfer-Gonzaga), PG-Ryan Harrow (transfer-Georgia State), G-Twany Beckham

2013-14 Outlook:
With arguably the best recruiting class of all-time and potentially nine future-NBA Draft first-round picks, it’s obvious why the Kentucky Wildcats are the No. 1-ranked team in pretty much every preseason poll or prediction that has been released this Fall.

According to the ESPN rankings, John Calipari snagged the third, fifth, seventh, eighth, and ninth best recruits in the 2013 class. The highest ranked of the group is Julius Randle, who brings physicality and finesse to the power forward position. His strength allows him bully around opponents in the paint, but the lefty also has a nice face-up game whether he is knocking down outside shots or power driving to the bucket.

Returning players Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress figure to join Randle in the starting frontcourt. Cauley-Stein is a high-energy big man and brings size, length and athleticism to the middle. He is fairly limited with his offensive ability, but scoring won’t be his role this year. Poythress is looking to bounce back from an up-and-down freshman campaign. He is a combo forward who is physical on the inside but also has range out to three-point line.

A trio of newcomers are competing for frontcourt bench minutes. Dakari Johnson is a big body and brings more touch around the basket than Cauley-Stein. Lee is long and wiry, but extremely athletic. He excels on the break and at finishing at the rim. Derek Willis brings more versatility to the frontcourt in that he is a stretch four and skilled offensive threat. He should ultimately replace what the Wildcats lost with Kyle Wiltjer’s department from the program.

Kentucky’s guard play was a rollercoaster ride last season loaded with inconsistency, so the additions of twin brothers Andrew and Aaron Harrison, and athletic off-guard James Young bring needed new life to the backcourt. Andrew Harrison will run the point and at 6-5, 210 pounds brings terrific size to the position. He is at his best attacking the basket and creating off the bounce for his teammates. Jarrod Polson will see spot minutes backing up Andrew Harrison, as could freshman Dominique Hawkins.

Aaron Harrison and Young will share minutes at the two. Aaron Harrison has more of a scorer’s mentality and is a better outside shooter than his twin brother. Young is a lefty who is extremely athletic, but also has range out to the three-point line. He should also see some minutes at the three when Calipari chooses to put all three guys on the floor at the same time. Seldom used Jon Hood is a shooter, but shouldn’t figure into the rotation with all the talent surrounding him.

Chemistry issues and players failing find their roles were huge reasons why the Kentucky Wildcats were one of the most disappointing teams in college basketball last season; they missed out on the NCAA Tournament and ended up getting bounced in the first round of the NIT. It is a blessing to have this much talent assembled on one team, but it can also be a curse.

Calipari needs to find balance throughout his roster, making sure each guy accepts whatever role is deemed his rather than trying to be glory hogs. If that is accomplished, this Kentucky team should be a lot more similar to the 2011-12 Champions as opposed to last year’s debacle (at least by Wildcats standards) of a squad.

Player to Watch: Everybody
This team is loaded with pros. Enjoy.

Key Non-Conference Games:
  • 11/12 vs. Michigan State (at United Center in Chicago)
  • 12/1 vs. Providence (at Barclays Center in Brooklyn)
  • 12/6 vs. Baylor (at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington)
  • 12/10 vs. Boise State
  • 12/14 at North Carolina
  • 12/21 vs. Belmont
  • 12/28 vs. Louisville

  • Predicted SEC Finish: 1st

    2024 NFL Mock Draft - April 16

    NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22

    Fantasy Football Rankings - Feb. 19

    NFL Picks - Feb. 12