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What to expect from next year’s Cats

One of the most popular questions people have been asking me PC (Post-Championship) is if the Cats can repeat. After diving into recruiting profiles, predictions, and stats with a few friends and receiving glazed over glances in return, I’ve learned to reply with a short and sweet “we’ll see.”

It’s one of the drawbacks of the one-and-done lifestyle: great rewards followed by great goodbyes, and the even greater unknown. Whereas we used to be able to spout off a starting lineup of returning players filled in with the occasional talented freshman who we hope will rise to the challenge, our off-seasons are now dedicated to research. Instead of replaying game tape to dissect a veteran’s shooting stroke, we pore over YouTube hoop mix tapes and the occasional, glorious pick-up game report. All of this is fine; it’s second nature by now, right? Thanks to social media, we form bonds with new players at an almost frantic pace. Nerlens Noel? He hasn’t even moved here yet and he’s a superstar. Unlike any (incoming) player before him, Noel reciprocates our passion for all Cats everything, tweeting daily rap lyrics with the closing line “I gotta get #9,” shaving the team’s logo in his beloved high-top fade, and preaching the Big Blue gospel to recruits far and wide.

But what about the rest of the new Cats? Drew linked this in the afternoon notes, but I think it bears another look: today, ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan breaks down next year’s team and predicts how they’ll rank against their Championship-winning predecessors. Not surprisingly, he says the defense will be centered around a new face with a familiar talent:

But by now, we know Calipari’s teams, and what he does to get them to defend like mad almost as soon as they take the court, and it’s safe to expect a similar defensive trajectory for his new-look squad. That starts with Noel, a massive interior presence who specializes in blocking shots. Many recruiting analysts believe Noel is already a better shot-blocker than was Davis, who set all kinds of team and conference records as a freshman. Noel is a different sort of player than Davis, a more traditional big man who’s been big all his life (as opposed to Davis’s freakish high school growth spurt), but it’s safe to expect him to provide a similar role on defense: When Kentucky’s guards and forwards are beat off the dribble, Noel will be there to cover it all up.

The bigger questions are on offense, where Calipari has proved amenable to changing his system based on the needs of his current group of players. Noel is far rawer offensively than was Davis, but Calipari has a pair of talented incoming wings in small forward Alex Poythress and shooting guard Archie Goodwin, the No. 3- and No. 4-ranked players at their positions, respectively. He will also have former NC State transfer Ryan Harrow inheriting point guard responsibilities, and the lone holdover from the 2012 rotation, sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer, stretching the floor with his shooting.

While the rest of next year’s squad remains shrouded in uncertainty, one thing is for sure: this team will center itself around defense early on, and the offense will develop over time. Like last season, it will take the new batch of players a while to find their roles, and the team time to develop an identity and chemistry of their own. Whether or not that is as easy for them as it was for last year’s group will decide whether or not we bring home number nine.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

21 Comments for What to expect from next year’s Cats

  1. cracka
    4:02 pm May 7, 2012 Permalink

    how about a “who will lead uk in scoring next year” poll … whatever happened to the polls?

  2. JohnBlinkylightGuy
    4:03 pm May 7, 2012 Permalink

    All I know is that it was cool seeing Miller and Vargas walk across the stage. Go Cats!

  3. cracka
    4:08 pm May 7, 2012 Permalink

    how about this, this article on yahoo about bennett and jefferson and recent news actually links an article on ksr as its source for bennett potentially having eligibility issues –

  4. JohnBlinkylightGuy
    4:08 pm May 7, 2012 Permalink

    1) Reloading isn’t done fella

  5. Lextown Vet
    4:15 pm May 7, 2012 Permalink Darious Miller Party Friday at Forte! Go Cats

  6. WhatSheOrder?FishFilet?
    4:21 pm May 7, 2012 Permalink

    We’re thin at both forward and guard, but we need more help at guard. That’s why I think it would be huge to have someone like Mays coming off the bench who can hit big shots and provide some senior leadership. We can get by with Wiltjer, Noel, WCS, and Poythress at forward. That said, I’d like to see us add Jefferson as well.

  7. catcrawler
    4:26 pm May 7, 2012 Permalink

    Lets just throw in Jefferson and go for #9
    Regardless of how the season goes, I’ll fully support the CATS.

  8. Hoss_Cat
    4:28 pm May 7, 2012 Permalink

    Okay, I assume you meant that your girlfriends asked you if we’d win the championship next year. I can’t imagine a guy seriously asking you that question. As if you’d know more about basketball lol.

  9. RYNO
    4:28 pm May 7, 2012 Permalink

    6) Right on the money WSO?FF?- UK’s gotta get one more shooter for next year’s team. Otherwise, you’re relying on your starting PF to hit ALL his outside shots to keep the defense from packing it in. UK will have some of the best “slash & drive” guys in the class (Harrow/Poythress/Goodwin), but those lanes won’t be open when all 5 guys on defense are standing in the paint.

  10. Tomas
    4:30 pm May 7, 2012 Permalink

    I think early on Goodwin and Harrow are going to have to score a lot of points, I think Poythress and Goodwin have the ability to great defenders. Wiltjer worries me. His defense is porous. May have to play zone to hide Wiltjer.

  11. BigBlue
    4:37 pm May 7, 2012 Permalink

    I really think Mays would add great depth at guard..also being the other SHOOTER we need. Jefferson I do not know much about (better or worse than Bennett??)..but he seems like the best remaining option. If we can get those two I say we have a well balanced team that has the POTENTIAL to go far!

  12. RYNO
    4:41 pm May 7, 2012 Permalink

    Mays shot 42.4%, averaging only about 4 attempts per game. So he’s good for one or two 3s a game, and Wiljer’s good for at least one or two a game. Not that the 2012 squad was a high volume 3 point shooting team, but they really poured it in several times this year. You couldn’t just slack off and rely on them to miss open 3s. Realistically, I think next year’s team better be special in transition and a defensive juggernaught for them to win 25 games. I think this will probably be the worst year under Cal, but who knows. I’ll say one thing, this year bought him at least two years of relative failure in my book.

  13. I'm hearing
    4:55 pm May 7, 2012 Permalink

    Mays will not be coming to UK. Neither will Jefferson, or Brzoja, or whatever his name is. When my buddy at UKAA talked to Cal, he said if he couldn’t get a definate one-and-done stud, or one of these senior transfers, he wasn’t taking anyone else. Mays is your only hope, but the staff isn’t feeling his interest. jfcats22

  14. greg
    4:56 pm May 7, 2012 Permalink

    What’s a realistic expectation for next years team assuming we don’t add anymore players? maybe 22-9 (10-6 sec),25-6, better? worse? What say you? how about if we add a player or 2?

  15. greg
    4:59 pm May 7, 2012 Permalink

    13-that’s pretty pessimistic-can’t imagine with having no depth Cal would pass on a guy like jefferson or mays (given he would be here one year) as long as they are interested. Speaking of which, some say mays is pretty interested. I could see them not going for mislav or Torian not wanting to tie up schollies though

  16. RYNO
    5:05 pm May 7, 2012 Permalink

    14) I’d have to see their schedule. I think Cal’s going to be a little easier on this bunch. No IU, no UNC, Duke is way down, etc. I think they can get 25 regular season wins if they come together by conference play. The SEC is going to be bad too though. That will help. Mizzou is coming in, but they are losing about as much as UK. Texas A&M is nothing special. Florida will be good, not great. Vandy lost everyone. UT still rebuilding, probably another year or two away from being a real threat. Miss St. will be horrid, losing everyone. I think UK can still win the SEC, but only because it’s like a shell of what it was last year. And lets face it, it wasn’t great last year. Alabama maybe Florida being the only real competition.

  17. WhatSheOrder?FishFilet?
    5:07 pm May 7, 2012 Permalink

    16) Missouri’s gonna be good too

  18. RYNO
    5:15 pm May 7, 2012 Permalink

    17) I dunno man. They’re losing Matt Pressey, Kim English, Ricardo Ratliffe (their only decent big man), and Marcus Denmon. They added Oriakhi, but they don’t have any new recruits that are special. I think they will be mediocre at best. Even still, they’ll probably be top 4 or 5 in the SEC.

  19. Matt
    5:48 pm May 7, 2012 Permalink

    I see UK getting at least Mays with the possibility of still getting Jefferson. If we get one of those 2 I’d say we’re winning 26-27 and if we get both 28-30. I’m a little slow to say down year after 2011 because that was a down year (9 losses) and we still found ourselves in the Final Four

  20. Mizzou fan
    8:51 pm May 7, 2012 Permalink

    Mizzou has Lawrence Bowers coming back who was injured last season. Also, Phil Pressey will be back and his friendship with Oriakhi was instrumental in him coming and fending off Cal’s overtures. Don’t forget about Oregon transfer Jabari Brown being eligible in December.

  21. John Ellis
    9:23 pm May 7, 2012 Permalink

    UK will be a FF threat, and have a bullseye on its back, fans flooding the court on any away loss. But next year will be the prelude to another dominant year in 2014, which could rival what this year’s team did. There will be seasoned talent in 2014. With a break, a threepeat possible.