The Kentucky Wildcats fell short of their ninth NCAA championship in school history last season. After a roller coaster season they mentioned to find a groove in March and realized their potential. With several returning players and another highly ranked recruiting class, it’s championship or bust in the bluegrass.
We all know that the Big Blue Nation fans are wild, irrational and often times insane. However, they are also some of the most knowledgeable and passionate fans in the country. Their expectations are for their Wildcats to cut down the nets each season. After a season where they saw their team play in the season finale, the buzz hasn’t died about what next season could bring.
The returning players who logged significant minutes include: Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Alex Poythress, Dominique Hawkins, and Marcus Lee. This team alone could challenge for the title. Add in the freshman class consisting of guards Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis, forward Trey Lyles and center Karl Towns and this team is stacked with talent, leadership and depth.
The loses of James Young and Julius Randle hurt, but they don’t take them out of the title picture. Randle logged 24 double-doubles last year while Young averaged 14 points per game. He was also a good rebounding guard who could start transition opportunities immediately.
Obviously their voids must be filled. I think the rebounding totals won’t suffer very much. Instead of having one guy who is dominant on the boards they have five big men who can dominate the glass.
The scoring load is the bigger issue. The Harrison twins are the only returning players who averaged double figures. I think they each need to step up in this category. A major reason is because freshmen generally have trouble adapting to the speed of the game. They also tend to struggle with proper spacing and shot selection. It’s going to take them some time to adapt.
If they expect to be as good most think, they will have to have a balanced offensive attack. If the defense can’t lock in on one guy that helps the team go in a number of different directions. We also know that if it comes down to it Kentucky has a player in Aaron Harrison who can take and make big shots in key situations.
My personal belief is that this team has the ability to go undefeated, but they won’t. It’s just so difficult to be on top of your game every single night. They are bound to slip up at some point. I feel this team may lose three or four times during the regular season. As far as tournament play goes, I see them reaching the Final Four. That’s what great teams do. After that, who really knows what will happen? Any team can get hot on any given night. Plus there are factors like foul trouble or injuries that could come into play.
Another year has passed, but nothing changes in Kentucky. They are expected to reach the Final Four and turn that into a title. With last season playing out the way it did I think this team will be ready and hungry. Big Blue Nation may not have to wait much longer for another title.