#5 Kentucky: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #5
Conference Rank: #1 Southeastern Conference
2009-10: 35-3, 14-2
2009-10 postseason: NCAA
Coach: John Calipari (35-3 at Kentucky, 480-143 overall)
Kentucky may not win 35 games again this year with a whole lot of rebuilding to do. But that is how things will work at Kentucky with Coach John Calipari at the helm. Every year there will be some players who are around for one season before they head off to the NBA. Each year Coach Calipari will reload, weather some early season struggles, compete for a conference title and be an extremely dangerous team by March.
Key Losses: G Eric Bledsoe, F DeMarcus Cousins, G Darnell Dodson, G Ramon Harris, F Daniel Orton, F Patrick Patterson, F Perry Stevenson, G John Wall
Every newcomer at Kentucky will be a key newcomer. In the backcourt the Wildcats add Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb and Jarrod Polson. Knight has the job of replacing John Wall. That sounds like a tough assignment, but Knight is a tough player who can do it all. The 6-3 freshman can easily attack the basket, but he does his best work setting up his teammates and that is what Kentucky needs him to do. Lamb could step into a starting role right away due to lack of other options. He is not much of a shooter, but Lamb will attack the basket and knock down the mid-range jumper with consistency. Perhaps more importantly on this young team is his intelligence. Knight will be the leader handling the ball, but Lamb can help team this team moving up and down the floor while remaining under control.
There are some more experienced options in the backcourt. Darius Miller is the lone returning starter and he was the unheralded member of the bunch. He may be yet again with so much talent headed to Lexington, but Miller is ready to become a leader on the floor. The 6-7 junior averaged 6.5 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists last year and should be ready to see all of those numbers increase. DeAndre Liggins will not score much even with more of an opportunity, but he is a great defender and that is why the 6-6 junior averaged over 15 minutes per game last season. He should fill that role nicely again during the 2010-2011 campaign. Jon Hood was overlooked on and off the court during his freshman season due to the immense talent that was around him. However, if his outside shot starts falling, Hood could turn into a solid roleplayer.
Josh Harrellson is the lone returning forward and he averaged a mere 4.0 minutes per game in 22 contests a year ago. The 6-10 senior, who happens to be the only senior on the roster, did quite well when he was in the game, but obviously he was not in the game too often. Most of the frontcourt production will come from the newcomers. Stacey Poole is an amazing athlete and a great defender who should develop into a fine small forward. The bigger guys are Terrence Jones and Eloy Vargas. At 6-9 and 210 pounds, Jones looks like a forward, but he can play like a guard too. He is a match-up nightmare at the four spot and should step right into a starting role. Eloy Vargas, a junior college transfer who spent a little time at Florida, has bulked up quite a bit and now has the muscle to compete with anybody in the SEC.
Who to Watch:
For now Vargas is penciled in as the starter at the five spot, but that will change quickly if incoming freshman Enes Kanter is ruled eligible to play this season. Kanter is a well polished post player who is a superb rebounder who can run the floor and finish with ease. If Kanter can play, Kentucky will have a deep frontcourt. If not, they lost their best recruit and all Kentucky can do at the moment is wait on the NCAA’s decision regarding his amateur status.
So much depends on Kanter. He is the interior player that can really replace DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson and Daniel Orton in the paint. Jones, Vargas and Harrellson just cannot handle all of the minutes at the four and five spots. That would force Coach John Calipari to play small. Playing small would not be that bad since this team has the athleticism to do so, but this would be a much, much better team with Kanter.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Brandon Knight, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Doron Lamb, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Darius Miller, Junior, Guard, 6.5 ppg
Terrence Jones, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Eloy Vargas, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
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