Kentucky Basketball: Who Will Lead the Wildcats in Every Major Stat Category?
Mark Zerof-US PRESSWIRE
The Kentucky Wildcats are not who they were one year ago. There are many questions that the 2012-13 team has yet to answer, but that's expected from such a new team.
We know, from what the team has shown in exhibitions, that this team is brimming with talent and versatility.
Alex Poythress idealizes that notion. He can play power forward, small forward and even shooting guard, but he was hardly impressive in Kentucky's exhibition game against Northwood, scoring just 11 points and collecting four fouls.
Leadership may be the biggest question facing this team. Who will be the "glue guy" like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was last season? Who will step up and score when it matters most?
Here are my predictions for the statistical leaders of the Wildcats in 2012-13.
Points: Archie Goodwin
What was considered up in the air for this Kentucky team is now solely Goodwin's to lose. The title of leading scorer clearly resides in his hands after his impressive performance against Northwood.
Goodwin scored 22 points from all over the court on 7-of-12 shooting, 1-of-2 from beyond the arc and 7-of-8 from the line.
How many points will Goodwin average this year?
He was the player that seemed the most comfortable with the dribble drive motion offense, and even with five turnovers, found a way to co-lead the team with five assists as well.
Other players will score, that much is evident. Every starter scored in double figures against Northwood. But Goodwin is a clear fit in Calipari's offense. His smooth style fits well with his aggressive mentality, and his skill allows him to score at a high clip.
Rebounds: Nerlens Noel
Who else could it be? Willie Cauley-Stein could challenge Noel's rebounding dominance if he plays enough minutes. The two combined for 20 rebounds against Northwood, but Noel won the battle with 11 in just one more minute in the contest.
Poythress could turn into a Terrence Jones-like presence on the glass, but he won't be camping the paint quite like Noel.
Kyle Wiltjer is the only other player that may see as many minutes as Noel and play in the paint, but if exhibitions are any indication, Wiltjer hasn't fixed his rebounding woes.
Which leaves Noel alone at the top of this category. The comparisons will be made between Noel and Anthony Davis, and they may be warranted here. He could average double figures in rebounds at the end of the year.
Assists: Ryan Harrow
Another no-brainer, Harrow has this category on lock—as long as he locks down the starting point guard job.
Harrow doesn't quite have the communication part of the job down as of yet, which may lead to a reduction in minutes.
Goodwin or Julius Mays could step in and land some assists, but neither are point guards by trade like Harrow. He's been in the system for more than a year, giving him a familiarity with the offense that Goodwin and Mays don't have yet.
The only player that could challenge Harrow here is himself. He's a shoe-in for this title—right now.
Blocks: Nerlens Noel
This will be close. Noel seems like an obvious choice, but Cauley-Stein could easily take this title if he gets enough minutes.
At 7'0", WCS is taller than Noel. He's also a bit more agile, which means he'll be matching up against smaller players more often. Smaller players means more chances for blocks, so if WCS sees the floor as much as Noel, this may change.
That said, Noel will be where most shots are taken—the paint. He's the eraser, and he's the one that gets first dibs on any guard that is slashing down the lane.
Both players have a chance to average more than three blocks per game. They combined for six against Northwood—four for Noel and two for WCS.
Steals: Willie Cauley-Stein
Rarely do you see a 7'0" center lead a team in steals. But WCS has the chance to do that this season.
His motor, length and athleticism make a recipe for success on the defensive end of the floor.
Of course, guards that see extended amounts of minutes will have plenty of opportunities as well. Goodwin and Harrow will be around the ball constantly on defense.
Cauley-Stein is a workhorse. I expect him to have a great year for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats will begin their title defense on Nov. 9 against the Maryland Terrapins at the Barclays Center in New York.
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