Kentucky Basketball: Wildcats' Biggest Red Flags Heading into 2012-13 Season
The 2012-13 Kentucky Wildcats are surrounded with questions. The hype, as it always is in Lexington, is through the roof. John Calipari has another stacked recruiting class, but there are still red flags surrounding this youthful group.
The glory of the offseason in college basketball is that no one knows what the next season will hold. Players may not live up to their potential, top teams may collapse down the stretch and injuries can throw a wrench in even the most promising season.
While you may find that some of these "red flags" are nothing more than standard protocol for Calipari-coached teams, others should have you more worried.
If you're up for the task, comment on what you think the red flags are for the 2012-13 Wildcats.
We'll start with the most obvious red flag for next year: lack of depth. We all know the story; John Calipari loves to recruit the best, win with the best and send them to the NBA in one or two years.
That makes the problem of lacking depth an every year occurrence for the Wildcats. In 2012-13, you can bet that seven players are poised to land a majority of the minutes: Willie Cauley-Stein, Archie Goodwin, Ryan Harrow, Julius Mays, Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress (pictured) and Kyle Wiltjer.
What hurts most is the lack of variation in these players.
Cauley-Stein and Noel, the two centers for next year, are both lanky and lack the beef that a player like Terrence Jones brought to the team. Goodwin, Harrow and Mays will make up the backcourt, but Harrow is the only player that can be classified as a "point" guard.
Fortunately, this problem hasn't hurt Calipari in the past. He is comfortable with his six-or-seven player rotations, and he has the success to back it up.
A quick solution to this problem may lie in-house. Twany Beckham could be a solid role-player next year, as could Jon Hood. How well these players progress this offseason could determine how deep Calipari is willing to dive into his bench next year.
Tony Trocha may give Calipari another frontcourt athlete, although he lacks the thickness that is needed. However, a talent like Trocha is always welcome in Lexington.
Pressure is yet another fairly evident "red flag" for next year—and this one comes by way of the fans, not the coach. Big Blue expectations are high for each player on the Kentucky roster.
Nerlens Noel has been touted as being a better shot-blocker than Anthony Davis. Ryan Harrow is lauded as being "next" in the long line of potent point guards under John Calipari. Everyone expects Kyle Wiltjer to step up and become a top scorer next year.
Not to mention—last year's squad won a national championship.
Living up to the expectations of a national championship team that featured six soon-to-be-drafted NBA players may be difficult—if not impossible—to do. No Kentucky team has repeated as national champions since the days of Adolph Rupp.
From an outside perspective, the pressure to win is high. However, Calipari has the title. He knows how to coach players that will be compared to their predecessors. These players knew what they were getting into when they signed up to be a Wildcat.
The pressure is on.
Who will take the place of Doron Lamb?
That is a question that Anthony Davis says will be the toughest to answer for the 2012-13 Wildcats. He told Andy Katz of ESPN in an interview that Lamb would be the toughest to replace.
Not himself. Not Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Lamb. And you should agree.
Let's compare the 2009-10 Kentucky Wildcats to the 2010-11 team. In 2009-10, John Calipari coached a team that was stacked with talent and lost in the Elite 8. The 2010-11 team had much less talent but made it to the Final Four.
The difference? Perimeter shooting.
A four-of-32 performance from beyond the arc ended the promising campaign of the 2009-10 team, while the 2010-11 team thrived on making outside baskets late in the shot clock.
Championship teams need perimeter shooters. No player on the 2012-13 roster has shown consistency in their outside shot except for Kyle Wiltjer. He won't be able to carry the load alone. Who will step up?
Archie Goodwin, Ryan Harrow and Alex Poythress are all slashing scorers. They can knock down open looks, but are inconsistent from deep. Julius Mays will provide a decent offensive threat, but he isn't a top scoring option like Lamb.
Darius Miller was the "glue guy" for the 2011-12 team. "Clutch" was a synonymous term when talking about Miller in March.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist worked as hard as any other player on the team. His effort, on and off the court, was immeasurable in the Wildcats' championship run.
Both players leave holes that will be tough to fill for the 2012-13 team.
Julius Mays will be the most experienced player on the team, but he doesn't have the track record of Miller. Ryan Harrow knows the dribble-drive offense and may be called upon to help out incoming players, but no one is ready to label him as a "leader."
Who will step up for the Wildcats? Will it be an unknown that surprises us all, like Josh Harrellson did in 2010-11? Or will another Wildcat step up and lead this young team?