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Who is Kentucky’s most important player this season?


Football may be in the air, but that’s not stopping ESPN’s basketball crew from talking hoops. Myron Medcalf and Eammon Brennan posted a bunch of SEC basketball previews over at the Worldwide Leader, one of which singles out the most important player for every team in the league. Kentucky’s M.I.P., according to Medcalf? Willie Cauley-Stein:

Kentucky: Willie Cauley-Stein

Cauley-Stein was clearly raw through his first season, but there’s always room in the NBA for a shot-blocking 7-footer who averaged 2.1 BPG and 23.6 MPG last year. Cauley-Stein, however, should blossom in his second year. It’s a boost for John Calipari, who will have an athletic big man with some experience next to his fleet of McDonald’s All Americans. Cauley-Stein’s offense was limited last season, but the Wildcats will have multiple players who can fill up stat sheets. His defensive tools and ability to score in transition could be the elements that push Kentucky to the top of NCAA pyramid in April.

There’s no doubt that Willie will be a crucial component to the Cats’ success next season, but I’d argue that there are a few other players that are even more important to Kentucky’s chances, namely Andrew Harrison and Julius Randle.

Last year, we saw how much a team can suffer from poor point guard play; all of Calipari’s squads live and die by it. For one reason or another, Ryan Harrow couldn’t lead the team like it needed to be led, and as a result, the Cats spiraled out of control. It’s interesting to see how well Archie Goodwin has played in the NBA summer leagues so far, which makes you wonder what his freshman year would have been like with a different point guard calling the plays. The Cats will be under a much steadier hand in Andrew Harrison, aka Stone Cold Killer, whom Cal has described as an alpha male with mind-blowing skills. Harrison, like Julius Randle, was built to lead, and his game is much more suited for the dribble drive offense than recent Cal point guards. Because of Cal’s system, Andrew Harrison may be more crucial than anyone.

My other candidate for M.I.P. is the man that’s apparently already leading the way: Julius Randle. Randle is a beast. After seeing the picture of him from Instagram over the weekend, I’m convinced he’s the basketball version of Za’Darius Smith. Aside from Nerlens last season, few players stepped up to provide any kind of leadership. That has already changed. Randle possesses has the will-to-win and the competitiveness it takes to not only lead the team, but dominate games. John Robic told us a few weeks ago that he has an “MKG-like motor,” and we know how crucial MKG was to the 2012 squad. From what we’ve heard so far and seen in Randle’s high school performances, he will not stand by while his team fails. That sounds pretty important to me.

Who’s your pick for “M.I.P.”?

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.

41 Comments for Who is Kentucky’s most important player this season?

  1. Coach
    1:01 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    Aaron Harrison point guard that we lacked last year!

  2. hahahaa
    1:04 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    you mean Andrew, the point guard?

  3. NL
    1:09 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    Are most important player is the guard that can consistently knock down the three. I don’t know if it is one of the twins or young, but D-Lamb is the reason we won the championship a couple of years ago. We need a scorer who can shoot it from deep

  4. Kyphil
    1:11 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    Who will our backup pt guard be? Is this a potential weakness ??

  5. Catfan
    1:14 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    Player that will decide how far we go will be Poythress. A returning player who has potential but hasn’t reached it yet. Similar to Darius two years ago. Does not mean they have to be the best player, but I truly think his maturity and growth or lack thereof will be huge factor of this teams potential.

  6. Coach
    1:18 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    #2, hahaha, one of those Twins! Meaning being the point guard whoever it is!

  7. UKUKUK1865
    1:20 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    Julius will be the most important player off the court. Andrew will be the most important player during games.

  8. Mc
    1:28 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    #4) It will be similar to 2012 with Teague. Who was that back-up on the depth chart? When Andrew is out Aaron will run the point some. Young may also be able to give a few minutes at the point. You may see a few minutes from Hawkins and Polson, but just because they are second on the depth chart doesn’t mean they’ll get the second most minutes at the PG position.

  9. Michael F. Jox
    1:34 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink


  10. fencepost
    1:37 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    The whole team are VIP’S

  11. Goochdaddy
    1:37 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    ……..Polson, without a doubt.

  12. Larry
    1:38 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    Who was the most important player on the 2012 team? Was it Davis? MKG? Teague? Jones? Lamb? Miller? Was there really a most important player? They were all pretty important if you ask me. Their off-the-ball defense was the best I’ve seen in college basketball in a long time. They worked well as a team. Granted, depending on the game, one may become more important than the other’s depending on exploiting match-ups.
    If one player gets injured though, I think losing either Randle or Andrew Harrison would be the toughest to replace.

  13. cracka
    1:44 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    i think what makes this team so good is their quality depth and the fact we don’t have a most important person … every position has a quality backup … i think a sr polson would definitely be able to get guys where they need to be and will easily be above hawkins on the depth chart

  14. Yesterdays
    1:45 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    All are important- But, think match-ups. Poythress is the guy who we need to exploit lack of size or quickness. He needs to be able to make teams pay for using small lineup or bigger line-up. We want to dictate a team’s line-up. Remember when MKG would guard and shut-down Siva? Then on other end he would just post up kuric. Hed catch it and turn and shoot. This is a key. Having someone who can guard multiple positions and giving you flexibility.

  15. ajh
    1:49 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    i feel like u know what your gonna get out of andrew harrison and randle. i would say the mip will be either alex poythress or aaron harrison.

  16. cdc_uky
    1:49 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    Pt guard is the single most important position. There is plenty of talent on the team and I am optimistic we will be good. I have tempered expectations after last year though, as we were highly touted in the preseason and it never came together. No offense cracka but you have no idea where Polson and Hawkins will fall on the depth chart. Who knows if the backup minutes at point will go to either of them…

  17. Rufus Lynx
    1:59 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    Julius Randle. If he’s the best player in the nation (I think he will be) then we are hanging #9. He’s an absolute match up nightmare. Even with this ridiculous amount of talent you have to have that one guy that can consistantly lift you out of those ish the bed moments or the WTF games. It remains to be seen what the other guys will do but its pretty clear what dat dude can do.

  18. asdf
    2:02 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    Randle will undoubtedly be the team’s heart and soul and our most valuable player, but we learned last season how important a point guard is. Aaron Harrison will be the most important guy on the team because he’s not Ryan Harrow.

  19. asdf
    2:03 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    Dang it, I mean Andrew too. Hmm…If Andrew is in foul trouble, can he swap jerseys with Aaron and come back in?

  20. BBN Gary Oldman
    2:18 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    I’d say it’s a 3-way tie between AP22, WCS, and Dakari Johnson. The first two because they will have to be the veteran presence, and Dakari because he will get some key minutes early and often, especially if there’s foul trouble involved. The dude can play, and he’ll get plenty of opps to prove it

  21. Han
    2:20 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    Really, it’s whoever is the team leader, but on the floor, it’s Andrew, I think. Your point guard has the ball most often and usually starts the offense. If he doesn’t make the right decisions and take care of the ball, the rest of your offense suffers, and so does the defense.

  22. How
    2:33 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    How anyone could argue that there is a more key position to Cal’s squads than the point guard after last years snafu is beyond me.

    WCS, poythress and Julius will be important but if we don’t have a competent PG then it’s a moot point altogether.

  23. Greg
    2:44 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    It is no doubt Andrew Harrison. If he plays like the number 1 PG we all know he is, there’s no reason we will be hanging #9

  24. Jason
    2:50 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    The MIP will be the Shooting Guard position (both Aaron and James Young). Most games we will be able to win by driving to the basket. But against elite defensive teams (tournament time) we need consistent jump shooters! People underestimat the importance of guys like Lamb and Brandon Knight. The spread the floor and open up lanes for guys to drive. If we can knock down jumpers we’re golden. Julius Randle, Andrew, Poythess, Dakari, WCS and Lee with a spread floor will be fun to watch! I can’t wait!!!!

  25. John Ellis
    2:58 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    Willie has more upside than Nerlans does. He’s still learning the game; very intelligent, can run and move amazingly well for a seven footer, very rare. With a real point guard and every position having to be guarded he should thrive.

    PS Take down that sexist Tipton photo, are you guys idiots? Would you put that up if it was a guy’s crotch? It’s not funny and has nothing to do with even a caricature of Tipton.

  26. SeaCat
    3:16 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    I hope WCS has corrected his stamina problem from last year.
    If not, I fear there is something wrong with his heart or lungs.
    I suspect Johnson will play a lot, based on his skill set and WCS’
    shortness of breath.

  27. CatsFanFrankfort
    3:20 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    #3. Agreed. The three ball is what is going to be huge for us. We need to make opponents’ fear our long range so we can get it inside to one of our many players who can finish at the rim/get offensive boards for the putback: Randle, Poythress, Johnson, etc. Aaron Harrison and James Young will need to be Lamb-level consistent for us to get #9 this year. Offensively, our 2-man will be extremely important, and the most valuable.

    But #12 is right too, in that off-ball D will be enormous. I think that was somewhat glossed over 2 years ago, but we had SUPERB off-ball D from Terrence Jones especially, stepping in whenever Davis scared a player into passing the ball. In that regard, WCS will be the rim protector and force opponents to pass to a slasher and Randle will need to master his defensive footwork and timing to be that off-ball defensive presence. We usually talk about the lock-down guys in the mold of Liggins or MKG, and while this will be important, I think we have the necessary length next year for that not to be a huge issue, and should have very good perimeter defense. But what flies somewhat under the radar is that crucial Help-D that Jones perfected towards the end of the championship season that was key in getting big stops and forced teams into bad shots.

    So basically,

  28. CatsFanFrankfort
    3:24 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    Offensively, our SG position will be most valuable to open the floor.
    Defensively, I’d go with our power forwards playing down on the block.

  29. emlang08
    3:27 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    #4, #8,
    Dominique Hawkins will be the backup PG. Along with Polson as an option.

  30. LakeHairDontCare
    3:39 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    Jon Hood – He can Ball Y’all!

  31. UKkathy
    3:56 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    At first I was going to select what we lacked desperately last year – a great point guard, which I think any team must have to win it all. Then I thought about long-range shooting, of which we had no consistency last year. Then the middle – after Nerlens went down, well, it was virtually over. For this upcoming season, I shall predict, the ENTIRE TEAM! The word “team” is the key. Hopefully these guys will gel early and whip teams by double digits! I have such high hopes this year; just like 2012. GO CATS! Let’s hang #9 this season!

  32. bigblueclint
    4:01 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    R-A-N-D-L-E ! ! ! nuff said!

  33. Jake
    4:17 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    It’s kind of hard to put one in front of the other in terms of importance. However, in my opinion, four guys are going to have to step up and take a leadership role. Of course Willy and poythress because they’re going to be our most talented players with experience at the college level. I guess you can say last was good for them because they now have an idea of what it takes to win a lot at the college level. Then there are the new comers julius randle and andrew harrison. The future starting pf and pg are going to be as important as the other two. There are more players who will major roles on this team, that just goes to show you how versatile this team can potentially be. Loaded with talent, basketball season can’t get here soon enough.

  34. Mark
    4:35 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    Wow, reading all these opinions. I am worn out. hehehe! I think the difference is going to be Andrew at point and the huge depth we have this year. So many weapons, so little time :). I think No One will know how to guard us. I think we will see games where James Young scores 30 points from every where on the floor. I think Randle will make them pay everytime he can to the rim. I think you will have stand outs and not always the same ones every game. I would not be surprised if Hawkin’s plays some minutes when need be. He has already proved he can play against great players and win. He has also been practicing this summer. Face it we have two complete teams that are awesome. Cal could tell them to go beat them up and play the hardest D we have ever seen and not worry about foul trouble. I like it. GO CATS!!

  35. Mc
    4:48 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    #29) I know who will be listed on the depth chart as the back-up point guard. My point, is that when Teague came out, Lamb played a decent amount at the point. The depth chart doesn’t determine the back-up minutes. Cal will want his best players on the court. If Aaron can run the show, he’ll slide Young to the 2, and go from there.

  36. Bobby Knight's Shrink
    5:04 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    Jon Hood, no doubt

  37. J
    5:27 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    The MIP will be Harrison running the point…Gotta have a PG in Cal’s system that can do the job.
    The player other teams will fear is gonna be Randle though, I promise you there are some SEC coaches out there already trying to figure out how to guard him and not coming up with a good plan to do it.
    I hope WCS has got his stamina up this year cause last year he was only good for a few mins at a time then he was gassed and had to go out, I think he has a ton of potential with some hopefully new found post moves and more of a motor…If he can get his offensive game going WCS can be a very dangerous player in college.
    I hope Alex P. changes his ways, but for me it’s gonna have to be a “See it to believe it” type deal with him, I’m not gonna praise the kid just off of rumors from some summer pick up games.

  38. Tom
    5:29 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    MIP if you actually understand is most improved player. Am I wrong. How can it be an incoming freshman if they weren’t there last year?

  39. NashCatFan
    7:34 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    I think the most important factor won’t be an individual player. I think it will be if all the players play for each other like the 2012 team. Several of the players have the ability to play and dominate a game at a high level if their teammates are behind them. The cats should be able to get through the tough games by riding the favorable matchup or hot hand but that requires thinking and playing like a team. I expect the consistently high performers to be Randle, Andrew H, WCS, and Alex P in that order. I’m not sleeping on Aaron H, Young, Johnson, Lee, Polson, and Hood. I think they will all step up at different points. Can’t wait for the season. Go Big Blue!

  40. rogdog
    8:07 pm August 12, 2013 Permalink

    It’s exciting reading about all the options that this team will have this year. No doubt that Young will get tons of minutes. He will be 6th man and will play both the #2 and #3 positions. Don’t count out Hood. He will make some key plays that will win some games with very little playing time.

  41. TheMadCatter
    9:30 am August 13, 2013 Permalink

    Poythress. The other parts are a given. If he plays to potential and provides leadership, hang #9.