Kentucky Wildcats: NCAA Tournament Team Preview

Kentucky

Kentucky Wildcats (8 Seed, Midwest Bracket)

Record: 24-9 (12-6 in SEC)

Coach: John Calipari

Tournament Berth: At-Large or SEC Automatic

Key Wins: #6 Louisville, Tennessee, Providence
Key Losses: LSU, South Carolina, Arkansas

The Kentucky Wildcats started the season ranked number one in the country. Four months later they are unranked with questions across the board about chemistry and experience. Calipari’s strategy is well known in the college basketball circle. His one and done tactics generate championship caliber teams like the 2012 roster or misbehave and fuel a season of questions like the 2014 roster. This year’s Kentucky team falls into the latter category.

The Wildcats are 1-5 against top 25 ranked teams, two of them coming to the Florida Gators, the number one ranked team in the country. The SEC championship game vs. Florida is on Sunday and would be adamant statement regarding Kentucky legitimacy to the selection committee.

The beauty of college basketball is that winning games in March can click momentum and cause fans and critics to forget about the regular season drama.

Top Players

POINTS

PPG

FG%

FT%

3PT%

J. Randle

15.4

0.513

0.712

0.231

J. Young

14.6

0.397

0.678

0.337

REBOUNDS

REB

OFF

DEF

BPG

J. Randle

10.6

3.6

7

.8

W. Cauley-Stein

6.3

2.6

3.6

2.9

ASSISTS

APG

SPG

TO

AST/TO

A. Harrison

3.7

.5

2.5

1.5

A. Harrison

2.1

1.1

1.7

1.2

 

Starting Five:

F – Julius Randle

C – Dakari Johnson

G – James Young

G – Aaron Harrison

G – Andrew Harrison

Who’s Hot: Kentucky certainly has the individual talent to contend in the NCAA tournament, but lack collective chemistry. Guard James Young and Forward Julius Randle are projected first round picks in the 2014 draft and the Harrison twins are late first round picks in the 2015 draft, according to Draft Express. 

Calipari has the experience of winning an NCAA tournament title. He will need to align his young players attitude and skills as he did in 2012.

Who’s Not: Alex Poythress has been a disappointment all season. The sophomore forward is averaging 5.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Poythress was originally projected to be a lottery pick in the 2013 draft, but decided to stay at Kentucky another year and has watched his draft stock waterfall. He is projected as the 35th pick in the 2015 draft, according to Draft Express.

Andrew Harrison was the number two ranked high school player in Texas last year. He has not been able to fully adapt his high school success to the college level yet. Harrison is averaging 10.8 points and 3.8 assists per game as the starting point guard for the Wildcats.

The NCAA tournament is opportunity for Kentucky players to expedite their draft stock by showing that they warranted the number one seed they received at the beginning of the regular season.

Outlook: Kentucky has the talent to compete in the NCAA tournament, but their chemistry issues could prevent a Final Four run or even cause a first round exit. A second round or Sweet 16 entrance is a more accurate prediction.

According to Joe Lunardi of ESPN, Kentucky is positioned to be a six seed in the NCAA tournament. Six seeds are legendary for upsets by 11 seeds so watch out for a possible first round exit. Kentucky could be caught sleeping with the amount of inexperience relied upon by the Wildcats.

Commentary by Niles Olson

Sources:

ESPN

Draft Express

 

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