The main storyline of Kentucky’s 2012-13 season read that once Nerlens Noel went down with his ACL injury, Kentucky’s presence down low fell off considerably. Willie Cauley-Stein, while a formidable replacement, was simply not evolved enough as a basketball player to carry the weight of the entire frontcourt. Alex Poythress and Kyle Wiltjer were shaky at best this season, and without any viable options down low to challenge them for playing time they were forced to try and play through their struggles for a better part of the season. Next season on the other hand, will be a much different beast. Not only will the Wildcats be much improved in the paint, they will boast one of the top frontcourts in the country by the time November rolls around.
Jeff Borzello of CBSSports.com says that after Cauley-Stein, Poythress, and Wiltjer all agreed to return to school, those 3 combined with the incoming Julius Randle, Marcus Lee, and Dakari Johnson will form one of the top 3 frontcourts in the nation next season. This is all assuming Noel is taking his talents to the NBA Draft Lottery come June and doesn’t account for the possibility of, oh, just the #1 player in nation, Andrew Wiggins joining an already loaded freshman class. SEC Rival Florida will also look to their frontcourt in a major way after Patric Young decided he would bring his muscles back to Gainesville for another year, and with the additions of transfers Dorian Finney-Smith from Virginia Tech and Damontre Harris from South Carolina, the Gators look to make another run at losing in the Elite Eight next season. Arizona rounds out his Top 3 after the commitment of Aaron Gordon.
What stands out about Kentucky’s big men next season is versatility. Wiltjer, Randle, and Poythress are 4’s that can stretch a defense with the 3 ball, and Randle and Poythress can even move to the SF spot in a crunch. Willie and Marcus Lee are the long-armed swatters protecting the rim, and Dakari Johnson is a big body that can carve out space down low. Throw the human pogo stick Wiggins into the mix and the Wildcat frontcourt becomes virtually indefensible. November seems so far away.