Kentucky Basketball: Predicting Wildcats' Stat Leaders for 2014-15 Season
Sure, the 2014-15 version of the Kentucky basketball team returns a ton of talent from a team that lost in the national title game.
However, two players who filled the stat sheets and were the top scorers on the team will be missing. Gone are Julius Randle, who led the team in rebounds and scoring, and James Young, who finished second on the team in scoring.
Returning for the 2014-15 season is a combination of players who combined for 46 points, eight assists and five blocks per game.
So, who is going to take over the scoring load? Will there be a player who, like Randle, can lead the team in multiple statistical categories? This slideshow will answer those questions and make predictions about who will lead the Wildcats in the major statistical categories.
Points: Aaron Harrison
Aaron Harrison finished third in scoring last season, averaging more than 13 points per game on a team that scored 75 per game.
More importantly, Harrison found his shot during the NCAA tournament run and began to play with the confidence many fans expected him to have the moment he set foot in Lexington. Whether he was hitting a game-winning shot in the waning seconds or looking to attack the rim, Harrison became the player many fans expected him to be.
While coming back after an incredible run during March seems to be the logical reason Harrison will lead the team in scoring, it will be due to the makeup of the 2014-15 version of the Wildcats. With a great influx of talent, including a plethora of post players, opposing teams will have to pick and choose when to leave a wing player to double down on the post.
Rebounds: Willie Cauley-Stein
This might be the toughest category to predict. The possibility of playing six power forwards and centers could absolutely change who grabs the rebounds for Kentucky each game. However, I'm giving the benefit of the doubt to the veteran of the group.
Willie Cauley-Stein has always been a great rebounder. In only 23 minutes per game last season, he grabbed an average of six rebounds, good enough for second on the team. Cauley-Stein often finds himself in great positioning to use his athleticism to get the board.
The key for Cauley-Stein to lead the team in rebounds is to stay on the floor. Between returning from an injury that knocked him out of the last three games of the season and the constant problem of getting into foul trouble, Cauley-Stein could see himself falling in the rotation.
Assists: Tyler Ulis
There are only two possible answers to the question of who will lead Kentucky in assists. One is incumbent point guard Andrew Harrison, and the other is incoming star Tyler Ulis.
So, why does the nod go to the diminutive freshman? Because he's the definition of a point guard. He looks to pass first and get his teammates involved before attacking the basket for his own points. Don't get me wrong, Harrison is an extremely talented point guard, but he's a different type of player due to his size and strength.
Ulis is an old-school point guard in the sense that he'd rather average 10 points and 10 assists than 20 points and five assists. In fact, the Illinois native has said so himself, per Sports Illustrated. Ulis' game is comparable to that of Chris Paul; when they drive to the paint, it's to pass and set up the offense rather than to try to score.
Expect Ulis to see plenty of minutes coming off the bench. Whether he's playing with the first or second team, every player around him will benefit with Ulis in control.
Steals: Tyler Ulis
Here he is again. Ulis is not only a floor general on the offensive side of the ball, but he also sets the tempo defensively. At only 5'8", he's forced to be extremely quick, and he uses that quickness on the defensive end.
Ulis always gets right into his defender and forces him to feel uncomfortable dribbling the ball. Ulis is then able to use his size to take advantage of a high dribble by his opponent to get the steal.
With a deep bench this year and a team full of athletes, don't be surprised to see Kentucky head coach John Calipari play an uptempo, full-court press type of defense, looking to capitalize on those factors. If that's the case, Ulis will be the key to pressuring the opposing point guard.
Blocks: Karl Towns
Numerous people could lead the team in blocks, but versatile freshman Karl Towns will be the leader in blocks during the 2014-15 season.
Towns is a true 7-footer who can play like a guard due to his agility and ability to stretch the floor. On the defensive side of the ball, he can take advantage of scouting reports from opposing teams. People across the country know about Cauley-Stein's ability to block shots and will try to challenge other players.
This is where Towns will be able to take advantage. The New Jersey native has long enough arms to challenge jump shots, similar to what Anthony Davis did, while also protecting the rim with his size.