(Kate Martin, maybe)
It’s never too early to make predictions… but why not push the envelope and make some predictions as early as possible in the year 2014? As we get ready to dive right into the 2014 action, here are a few semi-educated predictions for what the next year has in store for the University of Kentucky…
(In no particular order)…
1. Willie Cauley-Stein will get a triple-double
Cauley-Stein has flirted with a triple-double on a number of occasions already this season. Cauley-Stein is the most likely candidate to be the first player since Chris Mills (also, the only player in UK’s storied history) to record a triple-double. Cauley-Stein is the one player who consistently puts up strong numbers in 3 categories: points, rebounds and blocked shots. At some point during the SEC schedule, probably on a day we least expect it to happen– the elusive triple-double will be achieved by Cauley-Stein– etching him into the Kentucky basketball history books forever. *Side note/Prediction: I think the blocks and rebounds will be the easy part on that day/night (whenever it happens). The 10-point mark will be the hardest part…
2. Andrew Harrison will finish the season in similar fashion to Marquis Teague
Remember the first 2/3 of Marquis Teague’s season as Kentucky’s freshman point guard? Teague’s up and down play was the cause of many a headache for Kentucky fans. Luckily, Teague had a core group of veterans and two improbable freshmen (Davis and MKG) to surround him and allow him plenty of time to grow up into a championship caliber point guard. By the time the SEC tournament rolled around, Teague was the player and point guard Kentucky needed as the final piece of the puzzle to win the national championship. Andrew Harrison has continued to make big strides, especially over the last few weeks. With the talent Kentucky has on its roster, Andrew does not have to be the best player on the court– much like Teague did not have to be the best player on the court. But he does have to run the team and be a constant and reliable piece, stepping up in big moments when needed. When it’s all said and done, I think Andrew Harrison becomes the championship caliber point guard we all hoped he would be upon his arrival in Lexington.
3. The UK Hoops team will make the school’s first ever Final 4
The UK Hoops team has been knocking on the door for 4 years now, coming up just short of reaching the school’s first women’s basketball Final 4 on 3 occasions. Kentucky has taken a 2 seed into the tournament at best, never able to grab one of the important 1 seeds in women’s basketball. Perhaps more so than in any other sport, that #1 seed is a huge deal in the women’s game. With a handful of teams each year who are nearly impossible to top (UCONN this season), it’s important to draw as far away from those teams as possible. Securing a #1 seed would almost certainly ensure that Kentucky would not meet one of those teams until the Final 4. Not to say that Kentucky couldn’t beat a team like UCONN, but the road would be much better for Kentucky if they could avoid that match up until as late as possible. I think this is the year. The Cats have already proved to be one of the top teams in the country, with big wins over Louisville and Baylor. Kentucky also has a nice path lined up, especially should they get the #1 seed. Kentucky could host the first and second round games in Lexington, and likely will. Louisville has also been chosen as a regional site for the tournament. If ever a year for Kentucky to do it…this could be the one.
3. Kentucky will put 2 players in the NBA’s Draft Lottery, POSSIBLY 3…
I know, I know. That seems like a long shot at this point. Julius Randle is the only definite player to hear his name called in the lottery portion of this year’s NBA draft. Randle will likely be a top 5 pick, barring something crazy happening. I also think that Willie Cauley-Stein will find his way into the top 13 picks. A 7-footer who can defend the perimeter the way he can, as well as be a shot blocking presence around the basket, isn’t a skill set you see every day. His offensive deficiencies will be the only thing to potentially hold him back, but don’t be surprised if a team takes a chance on the 7-footer with unique talent. As for the third player? Don’t count out a 6-5 point guard in Andrew Harrison or an offensively gifted (and now potentially great rebounding guard) James Young. If Young gets hot down the stretch, it’s not out of the question to think he could slip into the lottery.
4. Matt Elam will pick Kentucky
We’ve talked about this a lot here on KSR lately, but the tide has shifted in favor of the Cats. It’s hard to imagine at this point that Elam will make any other decision.
5. Kentucky football will win at least 2 SEC games next year and knock on the door of a bowl game
Kentucky hasn’t won an SEC football game in 2 seasons. The streak will not only end next season, but Kentucky will pick up at least 2 SEC wins. Couple those wins with a couple of non-conference wins, and Kentucky will be knocking on the door of a bowl game. I still think 2015 is the year for that to happen, but Kentucky will be much closer in the hunt this year than last.
6. Jarrod Polson will have at least one more memorable game for Kentucky
Jarrod Polson came up huge for Kentucky against Belmont, but didn’t see the court against Louisville. Match-ups and speed of the opposing guards will likely dictate when and how Polson will be used. Throw in the fact that Dominique Hawkins has essentially locked up the back up point guard position, and Polson’s minutes just don’t look promising on a consistent basis. I predict though that at another point this season, Kentucky will face a team with guards Polson can defend, on a night when the other guards are struggling. And Polson will come in and provide one last hoorah as one of the most beloved Wildcats to wear the jersey. When it’s all said and done, Polson’s career at Kentucky won’t be one to make any of the all-time great lists, but his experience, composure and work ethic carried Kentucky at times last season and saved a potentially disaster of a loss against Belmont.
7. Kentucky football will finish with a top-15 nationally ranked recruiting class
The Matt Elam commitment would help, but Kentucky will be close no matter what to completing a top-15 nationally ranked recruiting class. That class should put them somewhere closer to the middle of the pack in the SEC.
8. Someone will continue to complain in the comment section of KSR’s “Funkhouser” that we are not talking enough about UK sports
Some people will never understand… And those people will always find a keyboard and a comment section.
9. Rick Pitino will suspend at least one more player “indefinitely”
I don’t know who it will be…and it won’t really matter because it won’t last long. But rest assured that at some point this year, another player will be suspended indefinitely. Definitely count on them playing soon after.
10. Kentucky will win the SEC regular season title in men’s and women’s basketball
I don’t know if Kentucky can quite measure up to the “
Year of the , seriously, I just can’t say it… But I think Kentucky will have a big year of its own in 2014. I think both the men’s and women’s basketball teams will make strong runs through regular season SEC play, bringing home the crown in both.
11. Julius Randle, James Young and Aaron Harrison will each have a 25+ point game in SEC play
I almost went with 30 points, but decided to play it more conservatively. All 3 of these players have proved that they are capable of explosive offensive performances. Throughout SEC play, all 3 of these players will have AT LEAST one monster game. The question is, who will end up being the leading scorer for UK at the end of the season? It will be one of those 3 guys…
12. Kentucky will make a run to the Elite 8… and possibly more
Without knowing how the seeding and bracketing sorts out, it’s nearly impossible to predict such things. With that said, I think Kentucky AT LEAST makes a run to the Elite 8. Best case scenario? National championship. Worst case scenario? Elite 8.
13. Kentucky will see Michigan State again at some point…
For some reason, I just have a gut feeling that the NCAA selection committee will try to pit these 2 teams on a collision course in the NCAA tournament. The story line would play out nicely, allowing for a re-match of the highly anticipated opening game in the Champions Classic. The story line will be whether or not the young Kentucky team was able to close the gap throughout the course of the season, or does experience win out in the end?
14. I’ll let you fill in #14… What is your prediction for 2014?