Kentucky Basketball: Pass/Fail for Each Player Based on 2013 Expectations
Some Kentucky basketball fans have the expectation of a national title every year. For some, simply contending for a national title is enough. This year, the Wildcats will not live up to either expectation.
The "Drive for Nine," that is, the ninth NCAA basketball championship won by the University of Kentucky, will be postponed until next season. The 2012-13 Wildcats have not lived up to their massive expectations set by their predecessors.
Granted, there are five more games still to be played this season. This team can make a remarkable comeback, however unlikely.
For now, however, the season has been a disappointment. Kentucky started the season ranked No. 3. Based on their expectations to start the season, the team has failed.
Some players have passed. Here is my list of pass/fail grades for each Wildcat.
It's been a tough run for Twany Beckham in Lexington.
The man that averaged over 15 minutes per game while at Mississippi State now struggles to see the court for John Calipari.
Not much was expected from him before this season. Maybe he could have played a few minutes per game as a defensive specialist, and his playing time has increased compared to last year.
But injury and fewer chances to play hurt Beckham this season.
One of the only pleasant surprises of this season has been Willie Cauley-Stein.
He's developed into a quality starter for the Wildcats through his hard work and consistent effort, two attributes that are lacking for Kentucky this year.
Even if his offense is sub-par, his intangibles more than make up for it. We knew he was raw at the beginning of the year, but now, WCS has earned 20-plus minutes per game.
Archie Goodwin is the Kentucky Wildcats' leading scorer.
He's ceding more minutes to Jarrod Polson now, and before Feb. 20's game against Vanderbilt, Goodwin had a three-game streak during which he scored in single digits.
Kentucky needs Goodwin to be a great leader. That has been part of the problem this season.
In the two games before Vanderbilt, Ryan Harrow scored zero points in 37 minutes on the court.
He was 0-for-5 from the floor with three turnovers and one assist.
Harrow was supposed to step in and be ready to play for the Wildcats. He had already practiced in Calipari's system for one season.
But at the start of the year, Harrow struggled. His resurgence in the middle of the season gave Kentucky fans hope, but his performance has been hit-or-miss since.
Jon Hood wasn't faced with many expectations this season. His season last year was lost due to injury, and this year, his role was hard to define.
His minutes have been inconsistent this season, but his effort has always been there.
Depending on your expectation of Hood, this season will determine whether or not you agree with my verdict.
Tod Lanter, Brian Long and Sam Malone
The trio of Tod Lanter, Brian Long and Sam Malone have combined for 13 minutes this season.
Last year, Long and Malone played a combined 30 minutes.
It's hard to expect more from these three.
Julius Mays has been on the court more than any other player on the Kentucky roster this season.
He's been a stabilizer on offense. He's not explosive and he's not a great scoring threat, but John Calipari knows what he'll get with Mays on the court.
Even with his absurd amount of minutes, Mays has only turned the ball over 30 times this year. That's good for sixth on the team.
His shooting isn't what we expected. But Mays has proven his worth this season.
There isn't much more to add about Nerlens Noel's impact on this Kentucky basketball team.
Kentucky has struggled to defend in his absence. Focus has been lacking. Effort hasn't been the same.
Noel was more than just a defensive presence. He was a candidate for defensive player of the year, yes, but his effort was infectious. He set the tone for Kentucky.
This grade should be pretty clear.
Based on expectations to start this season, Jarrod Polson has passed with flying colors.
Who would have expected Polson to be challenging Ryan Harrow and Archie Goodwin for minutes?
As a former walk-on, Polson wasn't expected to do much this year. But his game-changing performance against Maryland to start the year was a sign of things to come.
He has now played over 10 minutes in 10 straight games, and could be in line for more minutes in the future.
I expected more from Alex Poythress.
I expected him to be a monster on the offensive glass. I expected him to be the best scoring threat the Wildcats could offer.
On paper, this can still be true. Poythress has the appearance of a beast, but his effort isn't always there.
Unfortunately, his effort has been more "miss" than "hit" this season.
John Calipari has tried benching Poythress. He's tried to run the offense through Poythress.
The fire hasn't been there for Poythress. He needs a senior leader, something Kentucky does not have this season.
Fail is a harsh word.
Have these players "failed" this season? So far, probably. This could be because of high expectations, but expectations are always high in Lexington.
Kyle Wiltjer faced high expectations this season. He was supposed to be less of a liability on defense this season.
Pairing him with Nerlens Noel or Willie Cauley-Stein seemed like a great idea at the beginning of the year because he could complement their offensive inefficiencies with his offensive prowess.
But he hasn't been the assassin we expected this year. His three-point shooting percentage has dropped, and he's still not rebounding like a player of his size should.
He's improved in conference play, and there are flashes of excellence in his game (ask Ole Miss).
In a year where consistency and leadership are needed, Wiltjer's streaky style has not been helpful.