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.

The Starters:

PG: Teague v Harrow

The John Calipari history with point guards has become mythical, if not fully legendary, going back to his last two years at Memphis and his first 3 UK teams. The common thinking is that Harrow will not measure up to this line of first round draft picks occupying the point guard position. However, Harrow brings one element to the team this season that none of the past 3 point guards could boast. Harrow has spend one full season doing nothing but playing head to head on a daily basis against Marcus Teague while learning the Calipari point guard system. Harrow figures to hit the ground running with respect to his point guard responsibilities.

Three years ago, John Wall set the standard by earning a #1 NBA draft selection, and the fans said Brandon Knight could not follow that act. However, Brandon Knight followed the act by leading his Cats to their first Final Four in more years than UK fans cared to count, and his own first round draft pick. Then, the fans said Marquis Teague could not follow that act. However, Teague followed the act by leading his Cats to a National Championship and his own first round draft selection. Today, the fans say Harrow cannot follow that act.

I do not doubt that Wall is one of the best PGs ever to wear the UK uniform, but as Knight and Teague have proven, the point guard contributes to the team's success in many different ways, and the ultimate team success is not dependent upon having the best point guard in school history. Now the mantle of floor generalship falls on the capable shoulders of Sophomore Transfer Ryan Harrow. He will bring a set of seasoned skills to the floor. At the least, a PUSH with 2012 , and potentially ADVANTAGE 2013 .

C: Davis v Noel

How can any team possibly replace a departing National Player of the Year, and the 2012 NBA #1 draft selection? Most say that no team can possibly replace such an integral component from a National Championship team. However, Coach Calipari has come about as close to doing the impossible as can be done with the addition of the #1 high school player to fill that position, Nerlens Noel. Advantage 2012 , but not by as great a margin as many will presume prior to playing against Nerlens Noel.

SG: Lamb v Goodwin

Lamb as a sophomore was a force for the 2012 team. His perimeter shooting was superb, but that was expected by all. He also added moves toward the basket that were effective for himself and his teammates lurking around the basket and the perimeter. Finally, his ability to provide a stabilizing factor at the point, when Marquis Teague needed help, gave Coach Calipari the ability to let Marquis Teague develop his game at the pace Marquis needed to succeed down the stretch. Goodwin comes to the party with tremendous press clippings, but until any freshman demonstrates an ability to step onto a collegiate court and compete, he remains an unknown. For that reason alone, Advantage 2012 .

SF: Kidd-Gilchrist v Wiltjer

A year ago, when I prepared the 2011-2012 comparison, I treated Darius Miller as the likely #3 position starter, but it did not take long for everyone to realize that Kidd-Gilchrist had the tools and the maturity to step onto the court as a Freshman and play the game as well as anyone. Darius yielded the starting role for the benefit of the team. Kidd-Gilchrist's position on the upcoming team will probably be filled by Kyle Wiltjer. Kyle Wiltjer was one of the best perimeter shooters the Kentucky program has ever seen as a freshman, but his foot speed limited his defensive ability, which limited his playing time as a freshman. The biggest unknown for the 2012-13 team in my opinion will be how much Kyle Wiltjer can improve his strength, his rebounding, and his defensive abilities to compliment his already proven offensive skill set. Clear Advantage 2012 .

PF: Jones v Poythress

Jones as a sophomore became a man among children, especially after his disappearing act in early December that was instrumental to the team's only regular season loss at Indiana. However, after he returned from his hiatus over a subsequent finger injury, he was one of the key ingredients to the national title run. Jones was so much more a factor as a sophomore than a freshman. He will be replaced by another true freshman, Alex Poythress. All of the advance information about Poythress indicates that he too will have the tools necessary to play immediately as a Freshman, just as did Kidd-Gilchrist. However, until Poythress proves it, there will remain a slight Advantage 2012 .

The Bench:

Miller, Sr. v Hood, RS Jr: Advantage 2012
Wiltjer, Fr v Mays, RS Sr: Advantage 2013
Vargas, Sr v Cauley, Fr: Advantage 2013
Beckham, Jr. v Beckham, Sr: Advantage 2013
Polson, So. v Polson, Jr: Advantage 2013
Malone, Fr. v Malone, So: Advantage 2013
Long, Fr. v Long, So: Advantage 2013

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


To Big Blue Madness Season Preview

Go Back
To Analysis Home Page

Copyright 2012
SugarHill Communications of Kentucky
All Rights Reserved