Can Brandon Knight and the 2011 'Cats improve on last year's Elite 8?
As March Madness 2011 draws near, the question is, "How far can this year's 'Cats go?" Can they surpass the performance of last year's Wildcats, led by fab freshmen, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton?
Or will youth and lack of depth do this team in, leaving UK Nation longing for the '90s decade of domination?
On paper, this would appear to be the ultimate mismatch. The 2010 Wildcats had an unprecedented five players, four of them freshmen, taken in the first round of the NBA Draft. This year's version would be lucky to have two.
Last year's Wildcats had a good mix of size and speed, with big boys DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson roaming the paint, and speedsters John Wall and Eric Bledsoe blowing by defenders with ease. This year's team lacks depth in size or speed, instead relying on little-used senior Josh Harrellson to man the paint, and hoping freshman sensation Brandon Knight has enough gas in the tank to get them to the finish line.
Last year's Wildcats could win games on talent alone; this year's team can't.
But there's one advantage John Calipari's 2011 Wildcats has over the ultra-talented team of 2010. They've figured out that no one player can do it alone, that it takes everyone clicking for them to be successful.
Handicapped by the egos of Cousins and Bledsoe, the streaky shooting of Wall, and the schizophrenic play of Patterson, the 2010 Wildcats often battled themselves more than their opponents. This was never more evident than the Elite Eight, when they ran into a "team," West Virginia, and were bounced from the Big Dance without much of a fight.
The Kentucky Wildcats of 2011 won't win any games in this year's tournament on talent alone. It will take big performances from all six of Coach Calipari's rotation, and a willingness to do the "little things." They'll do it as a team.
So, even though the 2011 Wildcats may not "appear" as strong as the 'Cats of 2010, don't be surprised if they improve on last year's run to the Elite Eight.
Thankfully, we don't play the games on paper.