Kentucky Basketball: 7 Teams Kentucky Should Be Concerned About
A 52-game win streak. Bigger games in bigger venues. Defending national champions. The Kentucky Wildcats have the familiar "bullseye" on their back for the 2012-13 season. John Calipari is bringing in another great recruiting class, but there are question marks surrounding the team.
Some teams, however, don't have the chance to beat the 2012-13 team, despite the youth and uncertainty (sorry, Morehead State fans).
This list includes seven teams that do have the chance to defeat the Wildcats next season, whether it is because of recruits, experience or both.
Calipari is used to roster turnover, but losing his top six players will be difficult to come back from. It will take time for this team to mesh, and some teams will have a shot at taking down the champs early in the year.
Here's a look at seven teams that Kentucky should be concerned with next season.
Kentucky will play Duke on Nov. 13 in the Georgia Dome. This will be the first meeting between the two schools since 2001, and both teams will be looking for a win in the early stages of the 2012-13 season.
Duke brings back key returners like Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee, while bringing in two McDonald's All-Americans in Rasheed Sulaimon and Amile Jefferson.
It won't be easy for the Wildcats to defeat Duke in the dome. The Blue Devils live and die by the three ball, and if they're hot, watch out.
The Kentucky offense is the biggest question mark for the 2012-13 team, and for Duke, there is little doubt. Can Kentucky score with the Blue Devils? Will they have the cohesiveness on defense to stop such an experienced squad?
In their second game of the season, the Wildcats should be wary of Duke.
Baylor comes to Kentucky on Dec.1 for the most exciting game in Rupp Arena this season (well, at least in the non-conference).
The Bears have nothing to lose from this game. They bring back Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip along with a strong recruiting class, headlined by center Isaiah Austin. He and Nerlens Noel will battle down low in what is sure to be a great matchup.
Kentucky, on the other hand, has everything to lose. A home win streak of 50-plus games will almost assuredly be intact, and Baylor will be the first home "test" next year.
Jackson led the Bears in scoring last season and played very well in his Sweet 16 game against Kentucky (21 points, five assists).
It all adds up to a "can't miss" game in Rupp Arena.
Dec. 29. Kentucky at Louisville. Battle of two Final Four teams from the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Battle of two undefeated teams in the top three?
It's certainly possible.
Louisville brings back three starters from their Final Four squad. They're experienced, they'll be playing at home and they're expecting a win.
John Calipari hasn't lost to Louisville in his time as head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats. This is arguably the best Louisville team he's faced, and it will be interesting to see just how far this Kentucky team has come in their 14th game of the year.
Conference play will be something to watch in the SEC this season. The inclusion of Missouri and Texas A&M brings schedule changes galore, but the faces remain the same.
Florida will again be one of the top teams in the SEC. Billy Donovan lost two key contributors in Brad Beal and Erving Walker, but he still has Kenny Boyton and a bevy of other guards.
Florida matches up well with Kentucky because of their guard-heavy lineup. Kentucky has three guards slated to earn playing time next year, and none have SEC experience.
When Kentucky travels to the Swamp, expect a great game.
Missouri is a tough team to figure. On the one hand, they lost seven seniors from their 30-5 team from last year. On the other, they keep Phil Pressey and bring in a wealth of transfers and recruits.
Kentucky lost seven players as well. Both head coaches, Frank Haith and John Calipari, are tasked with bringing these new faces together and getting them to perform at a very high level. Calipari has done it before, and he's certain to do it again.
Haith is entering his second season as a head coach, but his first season was so successful that you'd be silly to say he couldn't do the job.
How Coach Haith joins this conglomerate of players together will dictate just how much of an impact Missouri has in the SEC next season.
Jarnell Stokes. The man John Calipari did not offer a scholarship to. The man that said he "plans on winning at Rupp Arena."
This season might be his best chance. The Tennessee Volunteers are coming off a surprising 10-6 record in conference play last year, earning them a two-seed in the SEC tournament. They'll return key players like Trae Golden and Jeronne Maymon.
Oh, and this will be Stokes' first full season in Knoxville.
Stokes may not get his wish of beating the Wildcats in Rupp, but if they can challenge the 2011-12 Wildcats, they'll be able to challenge the 2012-13 team.
Two teams beat the 2011-12 Kentucky Wildcats. One figures to be rebuilding. The other has already been rebuilt.
Indiana is the only team on this list that Kentucky is not "guaranteed" to play. But both teams have a history of finding each other in the NCAA tournament, and if they were to meet again in 2012-13, that's where it will be.
The Hoosiers are clearly one of the best teams in the nation. Christian Watford and Cody Zeller both opted to stay in school. Tom Crean has a great incoming recruiting class.
And there's that whole scheduling thing that Indiana fans are still mad about. If these two teams met in the NCAA tournament, the atmosphere would be electric.
Indiana has the best chance at taking the crown from the Kentucky Wildcats next season.