Kentucky Basketball: Blueprint for Turning Around 2013 Season

Bobby ReaganFeatured ColumnistJanuary 20, 2013

Kentucky Basketball: Blueprint for Turning Around 2013 Season

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    Kentucky basketball has all the talent to turn the 2013 season around. 

    The Wildcats are currently sitting at a 12-5 overall record while being 3-1 in SEC play. After winning their last two games against Auburn and Tennessee the question is: Has this group of Cats grasped the Calipari system?

    After going 8-2 in its last 10 games, Kentucky is starting to learn its identity. 

    By taking care of business by defeating Auburn on the road by over 20 points, people have to start wondering what's next for Kentucky. Head coach John Calipari has a recipe of getting teams to click at this point in the season. That is what this list is about. 

    If Kentucky has truly clicked and bought into the system, it has a chance to make another run to the Final Four. 

Consistency from Kyle Wiltjer

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    Kyle Wiltjer controls Kentucky's destiny for the rest of the season. His unique talent of being 6'10" and a sharp shooter from behind the arc makes him hard to guard. 

    On top of that, Wiltjer is a very underrated passer. When teams go zone against Kentucky, the offense should and needs to be run through Wiltjer. Whether it's getting the sophomore to the high post for a mid-range jumper or a pass back out, or putting him on the wing for three-point shooting, it is necessary to have him out there.

    Wiltjer does have his troubles defensively, but that can be made up with the help of Nerlens Noel and the rest of the team defense, as well as Kentucky running a 2-3 zone when he is in the game. 

    The season resides on which Kyle Wiltjer shows up. If it's the Kyle Wiltjer that allegedly showed up against Vanderbilt and Texas A&M, where he combined for only two points, Kentucky can punch its ticket to the NIT. 

    However, if it's the Kyle Wiltjer that combined for 34 points and seven assists in Kentucky's last two games, it will be a serious threat come March. 

Willie Cauley-Stein's Recovery

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    Freshman big man Willie Cauley-Stein is currently sidelined for an unknown amount of time with a knee injury. 

    The injury is the first in the Calipari era where a starter has been sidelined for some time. due to the energy Cauley-Stein provides, it could end up being a disaster for Kentucky going forward if he is out for a significant amount of time .

    However, if he is able to return to the form before he was injured, the Wildcats won't miss a beat. While he is out, Calipari will rely on Kyle Wiltjer and Alex Poythress to fill the minutes and rebounds. This could be a blessing in disguise to help make Poythress more dominant while allowing Wiltjer more minutes to gain his shooting stroke back. 

    If Cauley-Stein is able to recover, it provides a seven-man rotation for Kentucky with the unique ability to play two centers at the same time. Teams won't be able to match the height and length of Kentucky with Poythress, Cauley-Stein and Noel on the court at the same time, allowing the Wildcats to bring back its defensive dominance as well as more rebounds. 

Continued Development of Nerlens Noel

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    Whether it's fair or not, Nerlens Noel is compared to Anthony Davis, the star from last year's championship team. 

    Here's a look at their stats at Kentucky:

    Noel: 10.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, 4.1 blocks and 2.6 steals per game

    Davis: 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.7 blocks, 1.4 steals per game. 

    Not bad for a guy lacking a scoring punch and limited offensively. The question going forward is: Can Noel continue his offensive development to help push Kentucky over the edge?

    The freshman has developed a post game as opposed to when the season started when he usually just scored on dunks or offensive rebound putbacks. However, now Noel is able to post up and has a wide array of moves to get to the rim.

    Whether it's using his strength to back down a defender, or athleticism to ball-fake and beat his defender with quickness, if Noel continues to develop this way, he and Kentucky almost become impossible to guard in a man-to-man defense. Teams won't be able to help off Noel, allowing easier shots for Wiltjer and more driving lanes for Harrow and Goodwin. 

Putting Together a Full Game

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    Kentucky finally got a blowout win in conference, defeating Auburn by 22 points. However, it wasn't a pretty first half for the Wildcats. 

    They need a game where they dominate from start to finish. Lately, Kentucky has been putting together one good half of a game to carry it to a win. However, in order to gain some confidence, the Cats need to beat a team by 20 and have it be a 20-point game the entire time.

    This will also allow Calipari to rest his starters and allow players like Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood to see some more time. 

    Defeating a team like Alabama, which Kentucky plays on Tuesday, in this fashion will also allow Calipari to show the players a game tape going forward to show them just how good they can be. While Kentucky is talented, a young team needs a confidence booster to show just how good they are.

    If Kentucky can put this together soon, it will also put the conference on notice that Kentucky is for real and have figured it out. If that's the case, in a weak SEC this year, the Cats can make a run to the SEC title and a decent seed for the NCAA Tournament.

    Just like two years ago, Kentucky can show anything is possible in March as it made a run to the Final Four after losing six games in conference.