Kentucky Basketball: 5 Burning Questions for Kentucky Heading into the Season
The number of returning starters for the Kentucky Wildcats is zero. Nil. None. This well-documented fact hasn't swayed voters in the AP or USA Today Coaches Poll, both of which have the Wildcats ranked third to begin the 2012-13 year.
John Calipari does not think his team is that good right now.
That's what he said during SEC media day, anyway.
Via ESPN.com: "We're not very good. We don't individually guard, and we're not collectively defending. We're not real tough, and we don't sprint the floor. Other than that we're not bad,'' Calipari said.
So he's not oozing with confidence to start the season. He wasn't at UK media day when he said, "We could be 0-2" to start the season.
Calipari tells it straight, and there are questions surrounding this Kentucky team. But there always are questions, and year after year Calipari fields a talented team.
Here's five questions facing the 2012-13 Wildcats.
Who Is Ryan Harrow?
We still don't know what role Ryan Harrow will play in the Kentucky offense and defense.
We know he's athletic beyond belief for his size. We know he's explosive. He's been at Kentucky for over a year now, he's played college basketball before and he's a scorer on a team that has no clear scorer.
But how's his defense?
Can he be the vocal leader that Coach Calipari needs him to be?
Harrow will need to bring something else to the table for Calipari. He can't be a liability on defense. He needs to be vocal.
If not, will Calipari play Archie Goodwin at the point? Will Jarrod Polson play more?
It all hinges on Harrow's ability to play the point for Coach Cal.
How Much Has Kyle Wiltjer Improved?
Kyle Wiltjer has been labeled as a breakout candidate for the 2012-13 Wildcats, and for good reason.
He's the only returning contributor from a national title team. He's a three-point specialist on a team without three-point shooters.
He's the big man that can score, a perfect complement to defensive-minded Willie Cauley-Stein and Nerlens Noel.
But who says he's ready to step up to a 25 minutes per game role, over double what he played last year? Can he triple his scoring output from last year (5.0 points per game), even while sharing the frontcourt with WCS, Noel and Poythress?
John Calipari will focus on defense to start the season, that much is clear. Wiltjer wasn't much of a presence on that side of the ball last year. He'll need to be this year.
Can Calipari Rely on His Bench?
John Calipari hasn't exactly sported a bench in his three years at Kentucky.
So what could make this year different?
Well, a core of seven players—Ryan Harrow, Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, Kyle Wiltjer, Nerlens Noel, Julius Mays and Willie Cauley-Stein—will all likely play over 15 minutes per game.
That fact alone would make the Wildcats "deeper" than the 2012 national champions. Throw in an improved Jarrod Polson (pictured), a rehabilitated Jon Hood and a focused Twany Beckham, and it's clear Calipari has plenty of toys to play with.
We might not see it, though.
Calipari rarely uses his bench, and when he finds a strong rotation of six or seven players, he sticks to it.
How Will This Team Respond to Adversity?
Pictured is a team that responded to adversity: the 2010-11 Kentucky Wildcats.
With Brandon Knight and Josh Harrellson leading, the Wildcats made the Final Four, despite having major questions heading into the season.
They couldn't win on the road. They only went six (occasionally seven) deep. They weren't experienced.
The 2012-13 Wildcats may face similar problems. No depth and even less experience does not bode well in a conference that has improved.
Kentucky teams in the Calipari era have avoided injuries quite well, and the best home-winning streak in the nation means there is always solace in Lexington. If those two factors remain consistent for the Wildcats this year, they'll have the chance to stay on top.
One major question remains.
Who Is Going to Lead?
This is by far the most important question facing the 2012-13 Kentucky Wildcats.
Who will be the leader?
In the past, John Calipari has had vocal point guards on and off the court.
He's had guys like Darius Miller, DeAndre Liggins, Patrick Patterson and Josh Harrellson—starters that have been in the program and know what it takes to succeed.
Will it be Kyle Wiltjer that steps up? Will Ryan Harrow be the one that speaks up? Or will it be a fabulous freshman—Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, Nerlens Noel or even Willie Cauley-Stein—that steps up and drives this team to victory?
Right now, that's not clear. Someone has to want to take the shot at the end of a game. Someone needs to rally the troops when adversity strikes.
The sooner this question is resolved, the better for this Kentucky team.