Following a trip to the NIT last season, there is plenty for John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats to build on for the 2013-14 season. With a couple extra practices this year and a team that seems more determined to reach its goal, the expectations are there.
Twenty-one wins, including 12 in conference play, would make plenty of schools happy. However, things are different in the Bluegrass State. Big Blue Nation is used to winning 30-plus games with trips to the Final Four, especially under Calipari.
In order to get back to the Final Four, there are five things Calipari will have to check off his to-do list.
Some could argue the reason there wasn't any success last season was the lack of team chemistry for the Wildcats.
This year is arguably more important for team chemistry to be a positive. With six incoming freshmen that were McDonald's All-Americans joining another All-American and a returning starter, there will be internal battles for playing time and accolades.
The person that will be the most important for the team chemistry is going to be point guard Andrew Harrison. He's going to have to come up with a science on how to keep every player, including himself, happy with touches and shot attempts, all while winning games.
It's something we've seen out of Kentucky point guards throughout the years. Some were extremely successful like Marquis Teague was, while some struggled like Ryan Harrow.
John Calipari can't be with his team at all times so the responsibility falls to the coach on the court in Harrison.
This topic has been brought up numerous times throughout the summer, and it still will as the season goes on.
There are four big men on the roster that all expect to see serious playing time in Dakari Johnson, Julius Randle, Marcus Lee and Willie Cauley-Stein. Randle and Cauley-Stein are expected to start with Johnson and Lee coming off the bench.
While each player brings something different to the table, it will be a tall order, no pun intended, to find a way to get all four players on the court enough. Sure, matchups will play a large factor in who Calipari decides to put on the floor.
Most people expect Randle to be the star of this year's team, so he will eat up a majority of the minutes. However, how do you find the time to keep the other three players happy?
Sure, this could be applied to any team in the country. However, most teams don't have six McDonald's All-Americans joining their roster along with three other freshmen.
Despite having the talent, the players will quickly have to learn how to play alongside each other due to their schedule. The Wildcats face off against a favorite to make the Final Four in Michigan State in Chicago, where the crowd is expected to be loud.
Going from being the most athletic kid on the court in high school, to just a player at the college level is a tough adjustment for almost anyone. Coupled with the fact most of the players will be going from having to score 30 points per game to now just being asked to pitch in with hustle plays takes time to get used to.
It's no surprise that how well the freshmen play this year at Kentucky will determine just how far the Wildcats can go.
James Young is one of the more unique stories in college basketball this season. He actually was ranked higher by most recruiting websites over Aaron Harrison coming out of high school but is expected to play behind him at Kentucky.
On top of that, NBA scouts are not only saying Young is the best player in Lexington but the best player in the country.
That's right, a guy who is expected to be a sixth man is also being called the best player in the country.
Now, comes the fun part for John Calipari. What exactly is Young's role going to be?
Is he going to be the go-to scorer? Is he going to be a Jamal Crawford-like sixth man? Will he split time with Aaron Harrison or will they be on the court together?
Young provides instant offense no matter what his role is. Personally, I believe he will be used like Jamal Crawford is in the NBA or like Darius Miller was used a couple seasons ago. Instead of the first guy off the bench, Young will be more of a sixth starter.
Also, don't be surprised to see Young lead the team in scoring this season.
Outside of team chemistry, last year's team severely lacked a leader, especially when Nerlens Noel tore his ACL and missed the rest of the season.
When people think of a leader, they immediately think of a point guard or a star on the team. Perhaps, this year Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein will become those types of leaders that Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb were when the Wildcats won the national title in 2011.
However, don't be surprised to see two players who don't see the court as much to be the leaders. The two guys who have literally seen it all at Kentucky. Those two guys are Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson.
Both players came in during Calipari's first year and experienced the ultimate high in winning a national title and the ultimate low in losing in the first round of the NIT. Polson and Hood can give guidance to the young players on how others such as John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and Brandon Knight carried themselves.