2013-14 Kentucky Wildcats Basketball Preview

alex-poythress-kentucky-2012Kentucky Wildcats 2013-14 Preview
2012-13 Record: 21-12; 12-6 SEC
Lost in 1st Rd of NIT.
2013-14 Title Odds: 3/1

Betting Odds courtesy of Bovada

The Kentucky Wildcats were a wild disappointment last year, largely stemming due to the fact that Nerlens Noel went down like a wounded deer and the rest of the team never really seemed to regain the little steam it had going at that point. The season culminated in a first round NIT (Yes, NIT) bounce. And yet, despite that failure, John Calipari’s recruiting magic brought in Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson and James Young. All five freshman were top-10 recruits, and all chose to make their potentially one-and-done home Lexington, KY.

Andrew Harrison is the top ranked point guard prospect in the nation and at 6’5″ he has the stature to play both backcourt positions; if he had to. He’ll line up next to his twin and Calipari is excited about being able to go big at the guard positions. Calipari said of Aaron that they are aware of what he can do scoring the ball, but that he wants to help him solidify the finer points of his game.

Any Wildcat fans who were lamenting the abrupt transfer of Kyle Wiltjer to Gonzaga will quickly forget Wiltjer once Randle takes the court. He’s a true power forward, a rugged 6’9″ and is a likely top-five pick in the NBA draft, if not No. 2 overall behind Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins. Calipari said he is a “truly hard worker who can play multiple positions inside and out…a beast.”

Calipari is also hoping Alex Poythress makes some strides in his sophomore season at UK. The 6’7″ swingman bypassed the NBA draft to comeback and fine tune his game, and the year will do him good. He’s the top returning scorer at 11.2 points per game and he could exceed 14 per game this season, though with Kentucky’s depth, shots will come at a premium for everyone. Calipari said it is “scary how good he can be..he’s not close to where he needs to be.” That untapped potential could be a driving force in helping this team drive deep in March.

If the great guard play and swingmen weren’t enough, the Wildcats also have a nice seven-footer in Willie Cauley-Stein. He posted 8.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last season as a freshman, and he is a true physical specimen. Cauley-Stein is raw, can’t shoot free throws, and may resemble Ben Wallace for the next five years offensively, but a strong and athletic seven-footer is key in anchoring a tough Kentucky defense.

After such a disappointing year last season, all things are turning up in Kentucky, and that’s just kind of expected when five of the top ten recruits choose the program. It’s enough to enter the season as college basketball oddsmakers favorite at Bovada with 3/1 odds, and if the Wildcats do fail, it will take one hell of a deep team to upset them.

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