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2011-12 Season Analytical Writings
Coach Calipari has 10 scholarship players as of now plus 2 walk on players, and one transfer scholarship player who will not be eligible to play until the 2012-13 seasons. One of the walk on players will not gain his eligibility until the end of the first semester, in mid December. Including the walk on players, this team has two more players for 2012 than it did for the 2011 season.
The 2011 team labored under a distinct lack of quality depth, with only 6 players making regular significant in game contributions and two others contributing to the team effort on a spot basis [Vargas and Hood], each appearing in over 30 of the games and logging between 150 and 300 total minutes. Poole and walk on Polson appeared in less than half of the games and logged less than 50 minutes total for the season. An 11 th member of the team, Enes Kanter, did not appear in a single game due to NCAA ineligibility.
It was clear over a year ago that Coach Calipari decided that a short bench in 2010-11 would be a reasonable sacrifice in order to secure the services of four highly regarded incoming freshmen for the 2011-12 season. Not only did he make the decision to defer depth until this upcoming season, he was successful in securing the services of each of his targeted 2011 freshmen recruits. Moreover, despite the short bench and limited overall experience, and despite the unexpected unavailability of Enes Kanter, Coach Calipari molded his team through a series of 1 to 4 point losses into a formidable team that earned its way into the NCAA Final Four.
Of course, in college basketball, each year provides a new and unique mix of players. Gone from the 2011 Final Four team are Senior Josh Harrellson [Graduated and 2 nd Round NBA Draft Pick], Junior Deandre Liggins [Opted to Leave for a 2 nd Round NBA Draft Pick], and Brandon Knight [Freshman who secured the #8 NBA Draft Pick]. While Enes Kanter was not a playing member of the 2011 team, he was a member of the team just the same, and he successfully moved on to the NBA as well, securing the #3 NBA pick.
Added to the roster are Freshmen Anthony Davis [#1 Ranked Freshman], Michael Gilchrist [#2 Ranked Freshman], Marquis Teague [#6 Ranked Freshman], and Kyle Wiltjer [#21 Ranked Freshman]. Further, Tony Beckham, a walk on Junior will be eligible to play for the Cats for the first time in mid December.
So, let the comparisons begin:
1. How will this team compare to last year's team?
2. How will this team compare to the field next season?
I am sure that folks will frame the 2011 v 2012 comparisons in many ways. Here is mine.
2012 will be stronger in its starting five across the board, at every position, and even if Gilchrist takes a starting spot away from Miller or Lamb, that comparison of 2011 to 2012 will remain the case. Furthermore, the Kentucky bench in 2012 will be deeper and stronger across the board.
I believe that the 2011-12 Kentucky team will begin the season as either the #1 or #2 team, with North Carolina getting the #1 votes that Kentucky does not secure. This team will be young, as has become the trademark for the Calipari era at UK, but the decision by Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones to return with Miller and Vargas will give the 2012 version of the Wildcats an experienced depth that each of Calipari's first two editions lacked, and last year's team found completely absent. I expect the 2011-12 version of the Wildcats will mature and grow up as faster than either of Calipari's first two teams.
While few national writers with get excited about this team's prospects, it will have a legitimate opportunity to go through the season without a single loss, as UK will be favored to win every game on its 2011-12 schedule, including its annual match up with the Tar Heels, which this season will occur at Rupp Arena. However, from a more sober perspective, these Cats could lose as many as 3 games [1 non-conference and 2 SEC] going into the post season, and this team will be one of the legitimate contenders to win the National Championship on the first Monday of April 2012.
Thank you Coach Calipari for bringing this program back to national contention.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks