In ESPN.com’s Summer Shootaround Series, Eamonn Brennan came up with five major SEC story-lines, selected the most important player on each team, picked out six freshman to watch, and determined a “best case/worse case” scenario for each team in the 2012-13 season. To read the entire article, click here, but below are the important parts about the Cats:
The top storyline this off-season, of course, is can Kentucky reload and repeat as National Champions?
At any other program, with any other coach, when you win a national title and send your six best players to the NBA draft, you are not supposed to compete for a national title 12 months later. But this is not any other program, or any other coach. This is Kentucky as led by John Calipari, a finely tuned college hoops machine.
Kentucky’s most important player, according to Brennan, is Ryan Harrow.
Harrow won’t be the most talented Wildcat — he is somewhere around fifth or sixth on the list — but no position is more important to Calipari teams than point guard. Harrow will be responsible for facilitating a star-studded and athletic lineup. How he handles that role could be the key to Kentucky’s season.
The Best Case/Worst Case Scenarios for Kentucky:
Best-case scenario: Another national title. It’s just that simple. As is his wont, coach John Calipari has restocked his team with elite recruits who will play big minutes right away. Bringing Ryan Harrow in after his transfer year and putting a score of athletic players around sharpshooting power forward Kyle Wiltjer is a recipe for some potentially spectacular offense. This team won’t be as good as 2011-12 — that almost seems impossible — but its best-case scenario is still very much about hardware.
Worst-case scenario: Regardless of personnel, Calipari teams are always tough on the defensive end, so there’s a baseline level of expectation baked in no matter what form — dribble drive? downscreen sets? secondary breaks? — the offense takes. Still, some tempering of expectations is probably warranted. Nerlens Noel is not the transcendent, once-in-a-generation freak show Anthony Davis was, and Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin are not Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Terrence Jones. The learning curve for this team will be higher, but when your worst-case scenario is not making the Final Four, you’re in pretty good shape.
Other than the obvious choices of Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, and Archie Goodwin, Brennan also mentioned Alabama’s Devonta Pollard, Florida’s Braxton Ogbueze, and Auburn’s Jordan Price as freshman to watch throughout the league. Behind UK’s quest for #9 as the top SEC storyline are the additions of Missouri and Texas A&M to the league and the surprise hiring of Frank Martin at South Carolina.