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2012-13 Season Analytical Writings
In what has become the standard operating procedure for Coach Calipari's Kentucky Wildcats, his 2012-13 version will be a substantially new team for the 4 th season in a row. Coach Calipari will build the 2012-13 edition around nine (9) scholarship players and perhaps as many as three (3) walk on players if all three members of last year's team return for another round of practice and game mop up duties.
For those who like to look back at the way Calipari's previous teams shaped up, in 2011-12, there were 10 scholarships and 3 walk on players. In addition, UK had two players sitting out as red shirts due to transfer rules or injury recovery. The 2010-11 team, that ended the long UK drought of final four appearances started the season with nine (9) scholarships and one (1) walk on, but before they tipped off the first game, one scholarship player decided to leave the program, reducing that team's total numbers to nine able bodies. Calipari's first UK team had thirteen scholarship players, due primarily to the seven (7) returners from Billy Gillispie's last team.
The 2012-13 Cats will be starting the fall semester with similar numbers in their ranks as the 2010-11 team, but as we have also learned from Coach Calipari's tenure, it is not the number of players that determine the quality of the team, but the quality of the players who log the game minutes. This year's team, but that steady measure, looks to be a factor in March, when the games matter most.
Prior to the 2010-11 season, many observers, including this one, conceded that the short roster had as much to do with Coach wanting to keep critical scholarships available for a bumper crop of recruits for the 2011-12 season. Some are making similar remarks about the 2012-13 roster when looking ahead to next August when another bumper crop of high school recruits will be stepping onto college campuses. However, that 2010-11 team redeemed itself quite capably with a trip to the final four, despite doing without the services of Enes Kanter for the entire season, and the 2011-12 roster was not fully subscribed despite that bumper crop that produced UK's 8 th championship.
Therefore, there is only one conclusion about the roster that seems supportable today. Coach Calipari has nine (9) scholarship players on this upcoming UK team because that is the number of players he believes he needs to produce another contender. Yes, that will leave Calipari with plenty of room to maneuver for the best that the 2013 recruiting class has to offer, but it is doubtful that Coach Calipari extends that recruiting season beyond the nine to eleven scholarship players that have dominated his strategy these last three seasons.
Of course, in college basketball, each year provides a new and unique mix of players. Gone from the 2012 National Championship team are Seniors Darius Miller and Eloy Vargas. Also gone are Jones, Kidd-Gilchrist, Lamb, Teague, and the 2013 player of the year Anthony Davis. NBA teams selected six of these seven departing players in June's NBA draft, and four of those secured first round selections. The returning players from the 2011-12 team are Senior Twany Beckham, Redshirt Junior Jon Hood, and Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer. Sophomore Ryan Harrow was a member of the 2011-12 Championship team as a transfer redshirt player, and will compete this year in what will be his sophomore year of eligibility. Coach Calipari has added to those four “veterans” a senior transfer, Mays, and four freshmen: Nerlens Noel (#1 Ranked Freshman), Alex Poythress (#8 Ranked Freshman), Archie Goodwin (#12 Ranked Freshman), and Willie Cauley (#37 Ranked Freshman). All five of the newcomers should play heavily into Coach Calipari's plans for the 2012-13 team and season.
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 2012 vs. 2013 comparisons in many ways. Here is mine.
2013 will not be as strong in its starting five across the board as 2012 proved to be. In my opinion, 2012 was stronger at every position except perhaps point guard, where I see a PUSH between Freshman Teague and Redshirt Sophomore Harrow. However, the Kentucky bench in 2013 will be deeper and stronger across the board, with the exception of replacing transformed starter Darius Miller as the best 6 th man in the game in 2012.
I believe that the 2012-13 Kentucky team will begin the season as a top 5 team, with Indiana, Louisville, Kansas, and UCLA providing the balance of the season's pre-season Final Four contenders. This team will be young, as has become the trademark for the Calipari era at UK, more closely aligned, experience wise, to the 2010-11 squad than either the 2010 or 2012 editions. However, the 2013 Cats will begin with more experience at the point guard position than any UK team since Calipari's arrival, and for that reason, I expect the 2012-13 version of the Wildcats will mature and grow up faster even last year's team.
In last year's edition of this analysis, I fearlessly forecast that last year's team had a legitimate opportunity to traverse its regular season without a defeat, which it did but for its only stumble at Assembly Hall by 1 point, to a very solid Indiana team. I do not foresee the same opportunity for an undefeated regular season campaign in 2012-13, but when this team does stumble, it will be a rare occurrence and the entire basketball world will rise up and take notice.
There are two games in the non-conference schedule that are not clearly in the probable win category, road games at Notre Dame and Louisville. However, these Cats should be favored to beat the Fighting Irish, and could well be favored over the Cards by late December. In the expanded SEC, with 18 regular season games, I believe there are three road games for which the outcomes cannot be predicted as probable Kentucky wins prior to the season, at Alabama, Vanderbilt, and Florida. Of these, I believe UK will be the underdog only in Gainesville. Based on this pre-season analysis, these Cats could lose as many as three games [1 non-conference and 2 SEC] going into the post season (28-3 or better), and this team will be one of the legitimate contenders to compete in the Final Four for their third consecutive season. Therefore, by early March, most observers will regard Calipari's fourth UK team as a legitimate contender to win the National Championship on the first Monday of April 2012.
Thank you Coach Calipari for bringing us #8, and keeping this program in the hunt for #9.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks