Peyton Siva returns and wants revenge for last season's Final Four loss
The 2012-13 college basketball season is an exciting one for fans of both the Louisville Cardinals and Kentucky Wildcats. Both teams are ranked among the three best returning teams in the land and square off against each other in what should be another classic at the KFC Yum! Center.
Louisville returns more experience than the Wildcats, while Kentucky features perhaps more raw talent and NBA potential than the Cardinals. The question of which team has better players is not so cut and dry this season.
In fact, which team possesses the better projected starting lineup? Advance through the following slides for a complete breakdown position-by-position of the two schools' most likely starting lineups for the upcoming college basketball year.
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Ryan Harrow is set to be Calipari's new floor general
This is likely the most lopsided matchup in Louisville's favor, as Peyton Siva is more experienced and talented than Ryan Harrow. However, this will be an interesting matchup on the court because these are two players who play a similar style.
Siva and Harrow are small, quick point guards who rely more on their quickness and ball handling to excel on the basketball court. Neither player is a consistent long-range shooter and both players lack the ideal size of today's modern point guard.
With that being said, each player should be primed for a big season because of other factors. For Siva, he enters his senior season as the unquestioned leader of perhaps the country's best team. Louisville has all of the talent and experience to challenge for a Final Four and beyond, but it will be up to Peyton to lead them there.
As for Harrow, he is not quite the same athlete or physical specimen that the past few point guards have been for John Calipari. But as I mentioned in a preview article covering Harrow, this should not be much of a worry for Kentucky fans:
His one year on the roster gives him an experience advantage that no recent Calipari point guard has had. This will be the first time that his starting point guard already has experience with his dribble drive system coming into the season.
Ryan Harrow will need to rely on his experience with John Calipari's system if he hopes to excel for Kentucky. He is the only true dynamic point guard on the roster, so it is imperative that Harrow gets off to a quick start and continues to progress throughout the year.
In the end, this matchup ends up in favor of the Louisville Cardinals. Harrow is a fine player and will likely matchup fine against Siva, but Peyton is the better all-around player in this comparison.
On top of that, Peyton Siva just might have a little more motivation to excel as there is more at stake for him than simply wins and losses. According to this article on The Kentucky Blog, Siva's final legacy as a Cardinal is at stake:
If he can master those two things then he can go on a run that will put him up there will the all-time Louisville greats.
Winning a national championship for UofL is the one thing that would cement Peyton Siva’s legacy as one of the greatest and most beloved players to ever play for the program. Cardinal fans are hoping he can do just that this season.
Blackshear is carrying loads of expectations heading into this season
The shooting guard position is the true wild card spot for both teams. For Wayne Blackshear, he returns for a pivotal sophomore season that will shed light on whether he can become the star that Louisville fans expect him to be.
As for Kentucky's Archie Goodwin, he comes in as one of the most heralded prospects from John Calipari's 2012 recruiting class and will start at shooting guard for the Wildcats. He plays in a similar mold to Tyreke Evans during his days at Memphis playing for Calipari.
Evans was a 6'6" lead guard who scored from all over the court as a Tiger. Although he was not an elite shooter, he used his skill as a slasher and finisher at the rim to excel in the open court. He also doubled as the team's point guard for long stretches of the season.
This appears to be exactly the same situation that Goodwin finds himself in at Kentucky. He stands roughly 6'5" and was the best attacker and finisher from his high school class. He can shoot from long range if need be, but that is not his strength as a player.
He will also play backup point guard at times. He will likely slide over to that position when Ryan Harrow subs out and will play next to projected sixth man Julius Mays.
His matchup in this comparison is Blackshear, who is more of a long-range shooter than Goodwin. However, he is not as talented at driving to the basket as Archie is.
Wayne is returning from multiple injuries that have plagued him for the past 18 months or so. He suffered injuries that forced him out of the McDonald's All-American Game, then continued to derail his freshman season at UofL.
However, Blackshear is now heading into his first healthy season in a long time and is ready to prove what all of the hype was about before he got hurt. If he can develop into an elite shooting guard for the Cardinals, their odds of winning the national championship increase tenfold.
At the same time, the same can be said for Goodwin as his production is brutally important to Kentucky's success this year.
Poythress will dominate opponents in the open floor
This is the only matchup that features newcomers for both teams. Kentucky welcomes Alex Poythress to the mix this year and he should challenge for the team lead in scoring. He squares off against the Cardinals' newest addition to the starting lineup in Luke Hancock.
Hancock is a transfer from George Mason and comes in with quite an impressive resume. He has played in the NCAA tournament and appears to be a balanced, all-around player who can shoot, rebound and distribute the ball with ease.
Last season, Hancock stuffed the stat sheets by averaging over 10 points, four rebounds and four assists per game. He also appears to be an efficient shooter, as he converted on 49 percent of his field goal attempts.
He was named the co-captain for this year's roster so there are high expectations for him to perform. Coach Rick Pitino clearly has placed a lot of trust in him, so it is up to him to deliver and solidify the small forward position for the team.
Meanwhile, Kentucky features an absolute stud on the wing in Alex Poythress. He is a five-star recruit from the 2012 recruiting class and is an absolute force to deal with. He is listed at 6'7" on the official roster list, but he is probably an inch or so taller than that and possesses the body of an athletic power forward.
However, Poythress balances his power inside game by excelling in transition and shooting from the perimeter. He appears to be a true inside/outside forward and will be extremely difficult to matchup against regardless of who is guarding him.
Poythress showed off his all-around prowess as the second-leading scorer in this year's McDonald's All-American game. He finished just behind the game's MVP, Shabazz Muhammad, but appears to have impressed lots of folk with his output.
He broke out at Kentucky's Blue-White scrimmage that was held at Rupp Arena last week. After starting off slow in the first half, he terrorized opponents in the open court and finished the game with 25 points and a highlight reel of dunks and slams.
In fact, he resembles a larger and more physical version of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. That is high praise for the kid, but he possesses all the tools to be a wrecking ball on offense and should be one of the leaders for the team this year.
As you can see, both newcomers are headed towards successful years with their respective schools. However, I give the advantage to Kentucky at this position as Alex Poythress should be the next Kentucky phenom and will likely become a lottery pick in the NBA Draft.
Behanan has the physical edge against Wiltjer
In my opinion, whichever player wins this matchup will determine the winner of the annual meeting later this season. Each player is critical to their team's success, but they are also wildcards who each have flaws in their game that can easily be exposed.
First up is Kentucky's Kyle Wiltjer, who figures to be a bit of an anomaly this season. Fans and experts expect Wiltjer to be the team's leading scorer and it is clear that he is uniquely skilled on the offensive end of the court.
Kyle is the Wildcats' best perimeter shooter and because he stands 6'9", he excels at creating spacing on the floor by drawing out his post defender to the arc. This is a big key to the team's success with the dribble drive system, which thrives when players attack and finish at the rim.
He is also improving at scoring from the post, which includes using a hook shot that is becoming more consistent. All in all, there are few holes in Wiltjer's offensive game.
His weakness comes on defense and he is weak on that side of the floor. Physical post players such as Behanan will likely have a field day against Kyle and will constantly attempt to score right through him. It is important that he drastically improves his post defense if he wants to see more minutes on the court.
As for Chane, he should be the team's best offensive option in the paint this season. Read more about his style of play down low with this excerpt from an article on The Kentucky Blog,
Chane is known for his rebounding and needs to step it up on the offensive end. He’s a guy who developed his post game towards the end of last season, but could stand to be a bit more polished all-around.
Behanan is the most impressive specimen I’ve seen at Louisville since Terrence Williams. His body frame and speed is a matchup problem for every forward in the country, which is why CBS Sports rated him as the 13th best big man in the nation this year.
All signs point to him producing big time on offense this year. The big question remains to be his defense. Standing at 6'6" but weighing 250 pounds, Chane is a force to move but can easily be shot over.
When faced up against Wiltjer, Kyle will simply shoot the ball over him. The same goes when he tries to score in the paint. Kentucky's centers Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein tower over Behanan, so it is imperative that he improves his leaping ability in order to increase his vertical lift and improve his shot-blocking ability.
If he does not do so, then the team will be at a disadvantage playing against bigger front lines. Granted, the same goes for Wiltjer as well. He should be arguably the squad's leading scorer, but his defense has to improve before he can be an effective two-way player.
Whoever wins this matchup holds the advantage and will be a major factor in their team winning the annual rivalry. Although it is too early to tell, I believe that Chane wins out because of his advantage in rebounding and scoring in the paint.
Slight Advantage: Louisville
Dieng will be doing this a lot for the Louisville Cardinals
This will likely be the battle of the nation's leading shot blockers by the end of the season, but who wins in a head-to-head?
It is going to be arguably the most evenly contested and entertaining matchup on the court when Louisville and Kentucky play against one another later this year. Dieng and Noel possess similar body traits and physiques, with each of them standing above 6'10" but weighing under 240 pounds.
Therefore, each player is tall and big enough to be a great defensive anchor, but also possesses above average speed and quickness to run up and down the court on fast break opportunities.
For Gorgui, he is the more experienced of the two and is also a more polished player on offense. Dieng surprised everyone last year with his improved touch around the basket. Granted, he is by no means an advanced post scorer but he is further along than expected.
He came to Louisville with little hype and was only expected to be a shot blocker on defense. Although that is his biggest strength, he has quickly developed into an all-around force at both ends of the court.
There is a lot riding on Gorgui's shoulders as he leads the team into a season full of hype and excitement for Cardinal fans. Many expect him to be a game changer on defense and will be the team's anchor on that side of the ball. According to The Kentucky Blog, Dieng needs to step up for the team to reach its full potential,
Finally my prediction is that Gorgui Dieng averages around 14 points, 10 rebounds and leads the nation in blocks. He will be the leader of the front court again alongside Chane Behanan. This maybe the best frontcourt in the country, but it will be up to Dieng to step up if that is to be the case.
As for Nerlens Noel, he should be a revelation in college as he is expected to challenge Anthony Davis' school and NCAA record for blocks by a freshman. That is a monumental task for any player to overcome, but he does possess the length, instinct and talent on that end of the court to challenge and potentially break Davis' mark of 186 blocks in a single season.
However, Noel's strength on defense is counterbalanced by his weakness on offense. He is raw on that end and desperately needs to improve his ability to catch the ball and navitage the post without getting stripped.
Noel figures to convert on multiple lob opportunities, offensive rebounds and putback slams. If he can simply contribute ten points per game and clean up the boards, he will be just fine and should be a force in college.
Therefore, these two players are in a dead heat and it will be an intriguing matchup when the Cards and Cats face off this year. Dieng is the more experienced player and is more effective on offense.
Meanwhile, Noel is arguably the more skilled defensive player and should absolutely wreak havoc on opposing college offenses. However, he is very raw on offense and has a long way to go before becoming an impact player.
This should be an epic battle in the paint, but at this time I am giving the slight edge to Louisville and Gorgui Dieng because of his prowess on offense.
Slight Advantage: Louisville