I just can’t get over the fact that basketball season is over. I was having too much fun, enjoying this team way too much to see it end… and see them leave. But that’s the nature of the program now — and something I know we’re all willing to deal with. Players come and go, and a new flock of youngsters will be on campus before you know it, ready to go for No. 9. What do we have to look forward to next season? A lot, actually.
At the point guard spot, the best case is Marquis Teague returns for another year. If there’s one guy who could use the extra year in college it’s Teague. That’s not to say he isn’t ready to make the leap — because the NBA drafts on potential — but he would certainly have the most to gain from a second season under Calipari.
Unlike the few seasons past, Calipari isn’t targeting a point guard this time, because he’s still got NC State transfer Ryan Harrow who is a stud in his own right. We heard during the preseason how quick Harrow was, and his ability to finish at the rim (in some cases, I think people said he could have started over Teague). Well now is his time to show the world what he can do. He’s going to be so far ahead of the game starting next season, even if Teague decides to go pro, the Cats will have an experienced point guard running the show from day one.
The shooting guard will most likely see Doron Lamb exit and Archie Goodwin enter. Goodwin is very much like Lamb in his pure scoring ability from outside, and he’s ranked the second shooting guard in the class. He committed way back in September of last year and has played a few games in the Bluegrass with his team from Arkansas already. Goodwin is going to be a fan favorite in Lexington (as most every player is) — he seems to have a very likable personality and has a desire for fan interaction that the Wildcat faithful loves.
But you can’t forget about Shabazz Muhammad. He’s said he wants to play shooting guard, despite having a body big enough to play the wing. The way he plays his game, he uses the position as a way to draw a defender away from the basket easier, opening the lane for a drive. I don’t think putting him at the wing the way Calipari runs his offense will slow that development necessarily, because Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was a slasher all day every day.
Muhammad could benefit from playing the three by using his bigger body to post up on smaller defenders (but that might be what he doesn’t want to do). Keep an eye on this: with Goodwin as a pure outside scorer, and Muhammad a power player who can drive the lane; that is two contrasting styles looking for the same position. Ultimately, Muhammad will likely play a shooting-guard style in the three-spot if he were to come to Kentucky. Of course, he may decide on UCLA and this debate will never come to fruition.
Alex Poythress will come in to (hopefully) play power forward, replacing Terrence Jones. At 6-8, 215 he’s a little small, but who says he can’t bulk up this offseason? If not, Kyle Wiltjer will have to step up and be the starter down low. That would take this team away from the basket considerably and force them to rely on outside shooting. Poythress is a baller and a perfect scrappy Calipari-type player, and many recruiting outlet say he improved his stock more than any other player in this class over the last several weeks of all-star games.
While all of Lexington aches to see Anthony Davis leave, a new figure is poised to step in to replace him. Nerlens Noel and his high top fade seem like a match made in heaven here in Lexington, considering the hype over Davis’ facial fur all season long. Noel is a lanky shot blocking machine just like Davis, and is a perfect fit in Calipari’s new lobtropolis offense. Noels has narrowed his choices to Georgetown and Kentucky, but Calipari has made it perfectly clear to him, no doubt, that Anthony Davis is the mold for what he could potentially become. If you want some hardware, Nerlens, Kentucky has a spot for you front and center.
There is a long way to go, and a big day is coming on Wednesday when both Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noel are set to decide their college choices. I bought a couple of shirts at the UK bookstore the other day, and it finally hit me: Kentucky is National Champions. Don’t you think that’s cool ‘Bazz? Nerlens? Let’s enjoy this ride as top dog in college basketball.
Two huge pieces still need to come together for this next season to be a big one — and of course there are a few other targets out there on Calipari’s radar — but how does this 2012-13 starting lineup sound?
PG: Marquis Teague
SG: Archie Goodwin
SF: Shabazz Muhammad
PF: Alex Poythress
C: Nerlens Noel
BN: Ryan Harrow, Kyle Wiltjer
Can’t win with freshman, you say? Watch us.