Kentucky Basketball: Setting Expectations for Each Projected Starter
Death and taxes are no longer the only two definites in life anymore. You can throw in Kentucky basketball and John Calipari bringing in a highly-regarded recruiting class to that list as well.
With six McDonald's All-Americans joining two returning starters in Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress, the question of who will be the starting five come October is still up in the air. I'm going to give the edge to the two veterans and joining them will be Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison and Julius Randle.
Let's take a look at how the projected starting lineup will fare and what to expect each player to be.
Point Guard: Andrew Harrison, Role: Leader
Andrew Harrison isn't just taking the reigns of the team because he's the point guard. He's arguably the most talented player on the roster for 2013-14.
The next great point guard for John Calipari has the size and skill to dominate the game from the point guard position. Standing at 6'5", Harrison has the ability to take his defender into the post with his strength or shoot over him from the outside.
The Texas native will have the ball in his hands, not just because he's the point guard, but because he's the best playmaker on the team. His passing ability coupled with his scoring makes him almost unguardable.
Expect Harrison to be in a pick-and-roll position late in the game or when the Wildcats need a bucket. Also, don't be surprised to see Harrison step to the free-throw line late in games to help seal a win for Kentucky.
I expect Harrison to be All-SEC as well as second team All-America after his freshman year.
Shooting Guard: Aaron Harrison, Role: Scorer
Who could benefit the most from Andrew Harrison's passing ability? His twin brother, Aaron.
The difference, however, is Aaron's ability to shoot from anywhere in the gym. He has the capability of stretching the defense with his range as well as throwing down a dunk over his defender.
Aaron Harrison is not afraid to get his own shots, and that will be his role on the 2013-14 team. Expect him to float around the outside for the majority of the time, but once the ball is in his hands, don't expect him to settle for an outside shot.
He has the capability to break anyone down off the dribble and get to the rim when he wants to. With the advantage of playing his entire life with his brother, watch out if there is a two-man fast break with the Harrison twins as it will often result in an open shot.
Don't be surprised to see Aaron lead Kentucky in scoring numerous times throughout the season.
Small Forward: Alex Poythress, Role: Position Mismatch
This is the one position where it isn't a lock of who will be starting between Alex Poythress or James Young. However, we'll give the nod to the grizzled, in Kentucky's term, veteran.
Poythress gave up a chance to be a first-round pick in the 2013 NBA draft to help increase his stock at Kentucky, and he will have the chance thanks to the influx of post-player talent this year for the Wildcats.
Poythress is able to return to his natural position as a small forward, who, at 6'7", can play the 4 spot if need be. However, expect to see him more at the 3 this year. That's exactly where he will be able to take advantage of his athleticism.
The Tennessee native proved he can be extremely efficient when it comes to getting the ball in the hoop, shooting over 58 percent from the field and over 42 percent from behind the arc last season. Defenders need to respect his jump shot enough to leave the chance open for Poythress to get into the paint.
Also, expect Poythress to move to the power forward spot if Calipari wants to go more athletic or to help break zones.
Power Forward: Julius Randle, Role: All-American
Bold prediction that will get me yelled at: Julius Randle will be the best player in college basketball this season.
Yes, I know about that guy who decided to go to Kansas. I also know about the kid who decided to stay a year at Oklahoma State. But, neither is a better college basketball player than Julius Randle.
The 6'9" power forward from Texas is a rare mix of strength and finesse at the college level. An ESPN article from last year compared Randle to Hall of Famer Billy Owens. Ronnie Flores also got to explain Randle's game, saying he can dominate smaller players inside and is too athletic for post players to handle.
How do you contain that?
The simple answer is, you can't. You need to hope Randle has an off-night shooting or someone else from Kentucky is wanting the spotlight that night.
Randle's not just all offense either, as he is dominant on the glass, and it wouldn't be shocking to see him put up double-doubles quite a bit during the season. Randle won't gain as many headlines as Andrew Wiggins might, but Randle is also sharing the floor with more talent—on paper at least.
However, Randle will be the SEC Player of the Year and an All-American. Don't be surprised if people talk about him deserving National Player of the Year as well. There will not be a better overall college basketball player than the incoming freshman.
Center: Willie Cauley-Stein, Role: Defensive Presence
Willie Cauley-Stein will look to continue the trend of a great defensive big man at Kentucky that was started by Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel.
The 7'0" center from Kansas showed signs of being a strong defensive anchor last year, especially when Nerlens Noel went down for the season with a torn ACL. Cauley-Stein ended up averaging over two blocks per game last year and, more importantly, began to learn his role.
Early in the 2012-13 season, Cauley-Stein often found himself leaving his feet to try to block more shots, instead of using his long arms and timing to alter the shot. With another offseason to work with Calipari, expect Cauley-Stein to have that skill mastered when the 2013-14 season rolls around.
Coupled with his defense, Cauley-Stein will help clean the glass with Randle, as he looks to build on his six rebounds per game from last year.
With his size and another year to build strength and conditioning, there is no reason why Cauley-Stein can't be one of the best defenders in the SEC.