As we start to prepare for the 2010-11 season, a couple storylines have begun emerging for this team:
A. Enes Kanter and what his eligibility can do for this team
B. Any dropoff from last season, especially in the Knight/Wall comparisons
C. Who is leader of this team? Miller? Liggins?
But one area that I think has gone underplayed in the off-season is the complete lack of experience throughout this team. First and foremost, Kentucky only has 4 players with UK experience. Vargas has a small amount of time at Florida. But, it’s not just that UK has only 4 returning players, its that it has only 2 players who actually have serious minutes in Miller and Liggins. Hood has certainly not played any crunch time minutes, and Harrelson has limited minutes, especially last year. Just for comparisons sake, look at the returning experience from the previous UK teams that made the Elite 8 since 2000 and the ’96 and ’98 teams (along with one addition):
2010-11 (Miller, Liggins, Hood, Harrelson)
209 games, 3040 minutes, 856 points
2009-10 (Patterson, Miller, Liggins, Harris, Stevenson, Krebs, Harrelson)
349 games, 7093 minutes, 2328 points
2008-09 (Meeks, Patterson, Stevenson, Harris, Porter, Stewart, Carter, D. Perry)
300 games, 4571 minutes, 1379 points
2004-05 (Azubuike, Hayes, Moss, Perry, Alleyne, Thomas, Obrzut, Carrier, Lemaster)
419 games, 5123 minutes, 1620 points
2002-03 (Bogans, Fitch, Estill, Daniels, Hayes, Camara, Hawkins, Carrier)
520 games, 9524 minutes, 3764 points
1997-98 (Sheppard, Mohammed, Padgett, Turner, Edwards, Magloire, Mills, Masiello)
482 games, 7223 minutes, 2564 points
1995-96 (Delk, Walker, McCarty, Pope, Epps, Sheppard, Mills)
393 games, 7967 minutes, 3031 points
Here is an AMAZING stat coming into this year: Patrick Patterson entered last season with more career points (1,020) than this years entire team has (856). Let’s not forget that 08-09 team, the one with the least amount of returning experience since 1992 was an NIT team. I am certainly not suggesting this years team is NIT-caliber but I fully expect that this team with have some of the same struggles as that team, and definitely more than last years team had.
As much as people would like to argue that last year’s team was inexperienced, that is not really accurate. With Patterson, Stevenson, Miller, and Liggins, Kentucky had a solid base of players to build around their freshman stars. This year, only Miller and Liggins remains, which means either the freshmen need to step up big time, or Hood and Harrelson will have needed to improve. Otherwise, it could be a rough early season with the young players adapting and only Miller and Liggins there with serious UK experience. It is not too much to ask the freshmen to make an immediate impact, like Wall and Cousins did last year, but to expect all 5 or 6 of them to make an impact is unrealistic. Whearas last year you had Patterson, Miller, Liggins, and Stevenson to fill the gaps, this year the margin of error is less.
I really like the potential of this team, but when you analyze the roster and what we have, I expect we will see this team struggle through December. The potential is there for another March run, even without Kanter in my opinion. But no matter what, the lack of experience should lead to more bumps in the road for this Cats team. Nonetheless, should be another exciting year in Lexington.