Kentucky Wildcats: Terrence Jones, Darius Miller and the Rest of Starting Five
The Kentucky Wildcats will undoubtedly be one of the most talented teams in the nation next year. So talented in fact that there very well may be as many as eight future NBA players on the roster.
And with that much talent the expectations around the program are obviously very high. There has been plenty of talk around Lexington about Kentucky winning its eighth national title, rampaging through the SEC and even some talk about a possible undefeated season.
And who says that Kentucky fans aren't rational?
In fact, Kentucky fans are so sure about how good the team will be this year that the only real debates leading up to this season are about Joe B. Hall getting to coach a team of future pros and just exactly who will start for Kentucky next year.
Coach Calipari will have plenty of options and he has more experience on this year's team than he has ever had in Lexington. But he also has his most talented freshman class ever. So what's going to win out when it comes to getting those starting spots?
Here is what I envision will be Kentucky opening day starting lineup.
Teague will slide into the point guard role as a freshman and will do his best to continue the long line of great point guards under John Calipari. And though not as much of a scorer as some of Calipari's previous guys, Teague has plenty of talent to be the next one and done point guard for Cal.
That being said, don't expect for Teague to put up the numbers of a John Wall or Brandon Knight if for no other reason than he will be surrounded by more talent than those two were. Teague's job will be to distribute first and score second. As unselfish as Teague is, that shouldn't be a problem.
I'm looking for Teague to be the vocal leader on the floor and the guy who makes the ship sail smoothly. If he can handle that as quickly as past point guards have, Kentucky can live up to the preseason hype.
Miller will be a senior and will slide back into his starting role for his last Kentucky campaign. I'm just hoping that he can be more consistent this year than he has been in the past.
While his numbers end up looking pretty good, as anyone that follows Kentucky can tell you Miller has had a very uneven career in Lexington. He will have three or four great games and then disappear for the next two weeks. While he has the talent to be an All-American, I just don't know if he has the desire.
For Kentucky to be the special team that many fans think they can be, Miller doesn't have to be a star, but he needs to be more reliable on a nightly basis. Kentucky has to be able to count on double figure points from Miller and somewhere around seven or eight rebounds a game. Do that, as well as play his usual good defense, and the rest of the team will have more room to operate on offense, and Kentucky will be absolutely scary.
Lamb was a sensational sixth man last year and got starters minutes, and I think a lot of fans expect him to play the same role this season. I just don't see it.
Whereas last year's team had Brandon Knight on the floor to knock down the regular three-point shots, this year's team doesn't have anyone else projected to start by many that can do that. If Lamb doesn't start and Michael Gilchrist does, then Kentucky's only deep threat will be a streaky Darius Miller. That just won't cut it for a starting five.
Lamb needs to start to be that guy who can knock down the open shot to free everyone else up for their games. Don't get me wrong, I liked his role of providing a spark off the bench, but he just has to start this year.
Jones is the guy I'm either going to be the most excited to watch this year or the most disappointed in. And I don't think there is going to be any middle ground on this.
Coach Calipari is expecting Jones to make a Derrick Williams-type sophomore leap, and if he does, Jones will be the best player in college basketball this year. Jones was already one of the better players last year, so if he improves like Williams did between years, then he will become unstoppable.
If his game is the same, then it will be a waste of a year and he should have gone pro.
My guess is that Jones has improved his shot and will be what Calipari and the fans are hoping for. And with his size and athletic ability I'm really looking forward to seeing Jones work next year. In fact, I'm going to go ahead and predict that Jones will win National Player of the Year this season...unless the media just gives an obscene amount of love to Harrison Barnes.
Davis is the top-rated prospect coming out of high school, and I see him coming in and instantly becoming a defensive force for Kentucky. In fact, you might as well go ahead and give him the freshman—and possibly all-time—single season blocked shot record.
He's going to be that good down low.
Offensively, I expect Davis to get plenty of points off of the offensive glass and on fast breaks. I don't think Davis will quite have a polished enough post game to create his own buckets in the college game, but that will only be a minor problem for Kentucky. Davis isn't going to need to score a ton for Kentucky to be successful, but they will need his interior defense.
With him and Terrence Jones in the lineup, I don't expect Kentucky to get out-rebounded very often, if at all, this season.
Follow Eric on Twitter.