Kentucky Basketball: 5 Positive Signs from Wildcats' Start in 2013-14
Kentucky has lost only once so far in the 2013-14 season when the Wildcats were defeated by No. 2 Michigan State. However, despite the one loss in its only major game, there are plenty of positive signs for a young Kentucky squad.
Despite the loss to the Spartans, Kentucky is still one of the heavy favorites to win the national title and the clear-cut favorite to win the SEC.
Read on to see five positive signs from the Wildcats' start in the 2013-14 season.
Alternating Dominating Scoring Performances
Before the season started, Kentucky head coach John Calipari thought he could have at least seven different players score over 25 points in a game during the 2013-14 season. Well, in just five games there have already been three players to hit that milestone.
Julius Randle scored 27 against Michigan State, Aaron Harrison scored 28 against Robert Morris and James Young became the latest when he poured in 26 points against Texas-Arlington.
The ability to have numerous players fill up the scoring portion of the stat sheet is an obvious advantage when it comes to defenses not being able to focus on just one player. In addition, it shows the freshmen have adjusted to the college game quicker than expected.
As much as John Calipari has to be happy with three players scoring over 25 points in a game, he has to be more excited about the depth and balanced scoring effort the Wildcats have shown so far this season.
The Wildcats have four players averaging double digits in Julius Randle, James Young, Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison. They also have eight players averaging over five points per game, with their trio of big men averaging a combined 19 points per game.
With six McDonald's All-Americans joining two returning starters, the question before the season had to be asked of how the team would play together and share the ball.
So far there's been nothing to worry about as the Wildcats are also averaging 14 assists per game as a team.
Alex Poythress: A Consistent Effort
Alex Poythress came back to Kentucky for his sophomore year looking for redemption after what seemed to be a failure of a freshman campaign.
Sure, he might not be starting on the 2013-14 team or putting up high scoring numbers. But, he looks like a slightly different player.
He is eighth on the team averaging just over five points per game, but he is also pitching in over eight rebounds per game while playing an average of 19 minutes per contest.
Poythress isn't sulking as much and looks like he is enjoying himself more this year than during the 2012-13 season. He also has provided a spark off the bench grabbing double-digit rebounds twice in five games this season, including 12 against No. 2 Michigan State.
While it's been a small sample size so far, it has to be a sense of relief for Big Blue Nation to see a prized recruit come back for his sophomore year and make the adjustments he needs to in order to be successful.
Kentucky has looked like a dominant team defensively so far this season as it has held its opponents to an average of 64 points per game.
Outside of a bad half against Michigan State, Kentucky has commonly forced turnovers that have ignited its offense at the other end.
Through its first five games, Kentucky is averaging six steals per game, right on par with the previous Wildcat teams coached by John Calipari, including the 2011-12 team that won a national title.
While Calipari often gets praised for his dribble-drive motion offense, it is his defense that has made him one of the better coaches in America. By knowing when to apply a full-court press or a trap in the half court, he uses his athleticism to help build national title contenders.
Things haven't been much different this season as Kentucky is starting to learn how to play defense with the new rule changes in college basketball. Expect this team to get better defensively as the season goes on.
Julius Randle: Double-Double Machine
It was almost impossible for Julius Randle to live up to the hype as the face of this star-studded recruiting class.
However, Randle has shattered expectations early in the season averaging over 20 points and 13 rebounds per game. He has recorded a double-double in each of the first five games of the season.
Randle is arguably the one player at the collegiate level who you could put into an NBA game right now and be the most competitive. That is something he has shown on a daily basis so far by dominating opponents in the paint by using his strength and skill set to take over a game.
Randle has made a name for himself across the nation early in the season as arguably the best player in college basketball as well. Expect his name to be mentioned for player of the year alongside the likes of Jabari Parker, Marcus Smart, Doug McDermott and Andrew Wiggins.