When the AP preseason rankings came out, naturally, all eyes go to the team ranked at the top. However, the next thing to look for is the position Kentucky is ranked. The Wildcats are in the midst of building a dynasty. As a result, they will be the focus of national attention until they face a significant decline in success.
Because of this national attention and the high profile recruits John Calipari has brought in, the 2012-13 seems to be a little bit overhyped. Their no. 3 ranking in the AP preseason poll is far too high. Kentucky is a threat to come out on top in a very weak SEC. However, lack of experience will ultimately prevent the Wildcats from living up to their top three ranking.
To assume that this year’s team can repeat negates how special last season’s team was. Calipari has done a great job of meshing talented players together even though they lack experience, but those teams had some veteran leadership. Kyle Wiltjer is the only projected rotation player who played last season and he is just a sophomore. The Wildcats will miss Darius Miller’s leadership.
Another aspect that will be hard to replace is the maturity and selflessness displayed by the freshman a year ago. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was lauded for his leadership ability at such a young age. Freshman forward Alex Poythress may be able to match Kidd-Gilchrist’s physicality, but he will not be able to bring the leadership. Anthony Davis’ and Marquis Teague’s unselfishness should also not go unnoticed. It is doubtful this year’s team will have the same winning makeup.
Also unlikely is the idea that this Kentucky team can replicate the talent of a season ago. The point guard position is a major question mark at the moment. Reports out of Lexington voice concern that Ryan Harrow is not where he needs to be if Kentucky is to reach the lofty expectations that have been set. Calipari has criticized his lack of physicality and vocal leadership. Harrow is very thin and is a poor decision maker and perimeter shooter. He has plenty of potential because of his athleticism and breakdown ability, but there is no certainty he will be great this season.
Calipari can feel a little more comfortable on the wing, however. Archie Goodwin has the skillset and scoring mentality to be a star from day one. He will be relied on to be the go-to scoring option, which he is capable of. Still, Goodwin will see pressure he has never faced before and be asked to make plays in games with more on the line than he is used to. As a freshman, there are no guarantees he is ready.
The frontcourt is also a concern. Wiltjer is very skilled, but is probably not a guy who can carry an offense. Willie Cauley-Stein has impressed Calipari and him and Nerlens Noel should be dominant defensively. Neither one of them has much to their game offensively though, which puts even more pressure on the backcourt to score. Poythress is a beast, but again, lacks the offensive arsenal.
Calipari has voiced concern over his team’s defense and cohesion. He told John Zenor of AP, “Good players, good kids, they’re trying. Just young. Don’t play hard enough. Don’t play full possessions. Out of control. Don’t know each other, which isn’t surprising. We have no roles right now. We’re all trying to figure out who’s who.”
Ultimately, this Kentucky team does not have to be as good as last year’s team to have a successful season. The reality is that they are not even close and are not worthy of the no. 3 ranking the writers who vote in the AP poll have given them.