Kentucky basketball teams thrive on creating mismatches. John Calipari runs an offense that is based on exploiting differences in size, speed and athleticism. Expect more of the same in 2012-13 for the defending champs.
The team you'll see in the coming months, like past Calipari teams, will be able to play at any pace. In the past three years, his Wildcats have never averaged fewer than 76 points per game.
That trend should continue. I have the Wildcats projected to average 76.1 points per game, which would be the lowest in Calipari's four years in Lexington.
In half-court sets, finding and taking advantage of mismatches would be pivotal. Calipari has flirted with the idea of a Twin Towers lineup, one that would feature Willie Cauley-Stein and Nerlens Noel down low.
Add those two with Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress (the two players Calipari knows will start) and Kyle Wiltjer (the only returning contributor) and you have a lineup that could have an average height of 6'8". Incredible.
Mismatches (and length) would abound for that lineup. Poythress as a shooting guard? He'd be able to power through any opposing guard. Wiltjer could shoot over smaller players. Goodwin would receive the opposing team's smallest player, and chances are they wouldn't match his height at 6'5".
We may not see that lineup on the court to start the game, but it would be an interesting idea to play with. As for now, I stand by my initial prediction for the starting lineup in 2012-13: Ryan Harrow at the point, Goodwin and Poythress on the wings and Wiltjer and Noel down low.
What will be the biggest challenge on offense for this Kentucky team?
This lineup brings balance across the board. What Harrow lacks in size he makes up for in quickness, and on offense, he should be able to blow by opposing guards. Where Harrow may struggle is against bigger, tough defenders.
Harrow is the initiator. He'll rack up assists because of his skill to break down the defense and find an open player. IF (that's a big if) he can limit turnovers, he'll be one of the best guards in the nation.
On the wings, Goodwin and Poythress will constantly drive to the basket. That is what they were known for in high school, and that shouldn't change in college. Neither are outstanding outside shooters. The development of a pull-up jumper would do wonders for both of these super freshmen.
Goodwin is a wild card in this offense. He doesn't have the three-point touch that Doron Lamb brought to the table, but he is much smoother when handling the basketball and driving to the basket.
Poythress is the keystone. He'll likely draw the best defender on each team, freeing up other players. He's also the toughest to match up against, and because of this, he'll be a main option in half-court sets.
For the big men, Noel and Wiltjer will bring two contrasting (but complementary) playstyles. Noel is not an outside threat, but he should earn plenty of points on lobs and dunks alone. Wiltjer is the best shooter on the team, but he won't be seen making too many dunks on offense. He is a great complement to either center.
When WCS subs in (let's assume for Noel or Wiltjer), the Wildcats become a much faster team. WCS played wide receiver in high school, something that is obvious in his game.
Who is the most important offensive player for this Kentucky team?
His offense, like Noel, would be predicated on dunks and lobs. Because of his size/speed combination, he'll be beating his man down the court for easy shots on a regular basis.
The only other real contributor on the offensive end would be Julius Mays. He probably won't reach his per-game averages that he achieved at Wright State (14.1 points per game), but he will likely be the second-best three-point shooter on this team. That added "pop" off of the bench will be convenient for Calipari, should one of his starters struggle.
There are still questions surrounding the 2012-13 Wildcats. How will they play as defending champs? What if they lose their first two games? Who's going to start?
On offense, the transition should be a smooth one. Kentucky has an experienced floor general and multiple options that will exploit weaknesses for opposing defenses.