Kentucky Basketball: Pass-Fail Marks for Wildcats' Top Players in 2013-14
It's clear what the ultimate goal and expectation is for the 2013-14 Kentucky basketball team:
Raise the school's ninth national championship banner in Rupp Arena and make a run at a 40-0 record.
While those two goals are ambitious for the inexperienced Wildcats, they can be reached if each player plays to their potential in John Calipari's system. Read on to see a pass-fail mark for the four expected starters and then Alex Poythress and James Young, since it's unclear who will start between the two of those players.
Willie Cauley-Stein: All-SEC Defensive Team
Willie Cauley-Stein is no longer known as the 'other' freshman or the seven-foot wide receiver turned college basketball player.
We heard the story numerous times last year during Cauley-Stein's first year in Lexington, and he showed improvement throughout the season, especially when fellow big man Nerlens Noel went out for the year with a torn ACL.
Early in the season Cauley-Stein showed his energy and ability to block shots but also his inexperience at the collegiate level. He often left his feet too often, biting on a shot-fake allowing for a basket or getting himself in foul trouble.
With an offseason under the tutelage of Kentucky's coaching staff, Cauley-Stein is an expected lottery pick and should be dominant on the defensive side of the ball. With Kentucky being so deep with players able to put the ball in the hoop, Cauley-Stein can concentrate defensively.
His athleticism and ability to keep up with guards should allow a couple steals per game to go with his blocked shots. At minimum he should be an All-SEC Defensive Team player, but realistically he should make a run at the Defender of the Year.
Julius Randle: First Team All-American
Julius Randle has had the hype since he committed to Kentucky during the offseason. An unstoppable force at the rim with the ability to handle the ball and hit a mid-range jumper, his offensive game is supposed to be off the charts.
Heading into the season, John Calipari has worked with Randle to extend his range, making it even more difficult for Kentucky's opponents to plan a defense around Randle.
Coupled with the gift of an incredible point guard in Andrew Harrison and teammates around him that all can score, Randle should be in plenty of one-on-one situations this season. He should be taking advantage of this by putting up lofty scoring numbers and garnering plenty of awards.
Alex Poythress: Be Consistent the Entire Year
Alex Poythress has all the tools to be one of the best players in the nation. However, the one piece he is missing is consistency.
Last season, Poythress put up decent numbers, averaging over 11 points and six rebounds per game as a freshman. However, he would have games where he would score four points and look disinterested in the game.
A one-time sure-fire lottery pick, Poythress decided to return for his sophomore year at Kentucky and currently finds himself battling for a starting spot with James Young. If Poythress wants to keep his starting spot and earn his way back up the draft boards it starts with being the same player the entire year.
Sure, you can't score 12 points and haul down five rebounds every game. But he needs to limit those times where he isn't a factor and puts up a box score that reads three points, two rebounds, four fouls.
James Young: SEC Freshman of the Year
It won't matter if James Young comes off the bench or starts, there is no doubt he could easily lead Kentucky in scoring this season.
The 6'7" Young can do it all. Whether it's drive and finish at the rim with a thunderous dunk or show his smooth jumper from deep behind the three-point line, Young will be a mismatch no matter who is guarding him.
He's not a one-dimensional player either. Young is expected to be the best perimeter defender the Wildcats have this season and has the ability to guard three or four positions.
While teammate Julius Randle makes a case for National Freshman of the Year alongside Andrew Wiggins, James Young could quietly be the best SEC freshman.
Aaron Harrison: Average 12 Points a Game and 40 Percent from Downtown
Aaron Harrison might not even be the best player with his last name on Kentucky this season, but there's no reason he can't make headlines. While his brother Andrew is wildly regarded as the better player, Aaron Harrison is the better scorer of the two and is expected to be one of Kentucky's go-to players offensively.
A sharp-shooter from the outside, it will be important for the 6'6" guard to live up to that reputation at the college level. More precisely, he needs to shoot 40 percent from behind the line in order to make opponents pay for leaving him to help in the post or going zone against the Wildcats.
If he is able to shoot that consistently from the outside it will also allow him to drive and finish at the rim, something he is more than capable of. With the combination of the two getting to 12 points a game should be a breeze for the freshman from Texas.
Andrew Harrison: Win the Bob Cousy Award
Andrew Harrison has stiff competition for the Bob Cousy award this season, which is given to the best point guard in the country. He also has history against him, as no freshman has ever won the award since it began in the 2003-04 season.
While it may be Marcus Smart's award to lose, you could make a strong case that Andrew Harrison has more to do as a point guard for Kentucky than Smart at Oklahoma State. With eight players expected to see serious minutes and all being high school phenoms, it will be up to Harrison to distribute the ball evenly.
That includes getting shots for himself.
Smart, on the other hand, is required to score more while keeping less players happy for the Cowboys.
If Harrison uses his incredible basketball IQ to balance when to pass and when to attack, not only will the Bob Cousy Award be coming to Kentucky, but another national title will too.
This team will go as far as Andrew Harrison takes them.