2011-2012 College Basketball Previews: #2- Kentucky Wildcats
Kentucky Wildcats Gambling Odds to Win NCAA Championship from Bookmaker: +415
Kentucky Wildcats Gambling Odds to Win SEC Regular Season from 5Dimes: -125
We’re counting down the days until the college basketball season gets underway. Most teams start their season right around November 10. We’re up to the number two team in my preseason top five: the Kentucky Wildcats.
Last Year’s Results (29-9, Loss in Final Four)
The 2010-2011 version of the Kentucky Wildcats wasn’t as hyped as the 2009-2010 version, but they actually went a little deeper in the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats pulled one of the biggest upsets of the tournament when they knocked off Ohio State in a thriller. John Calipari’s Wildcats were young, but they were ultra-talented and they showed poise during crunch time. The Wildcats really took good care of the basketball and played solid defense in their deep run in the tournament.
Brandon Knight was the man who ran the show last year, and he will be missed in a big way. Knight was a clutch player who seemed to always end up in the right place at the right time. DeAndre Liggins didn’t get as much press as Knight, but he was a very valuable member of last year’s team as well. Liggins was a lockdown defender, who was also capable of taking the ball to the basket. Josh Harrellson gave the team some great minutes at center, and they’ll miss his defensive presence.
Should it really surprise us that Calipari has another stellar class coming to Kentucky? Most recruiting services rank this class as the top class in the country. Marquis Teague may not be another Brandon Knight, but he will be a very solid point guard for this team. Anthony Davis is a matchup nightmare wherever he plays on the floor, and he has drawn comparisons to Kevin Durant. Mike Gilchrist is a versatile small forward who should see plenty of playing time right away. Kyle Wiltjer is another talented big man that should get some time at the power forward spot. This Wildcats incoming class is nothing less than spectacular!
You can sum up Kentucky’s primary edge on just about everyone else in one key word “athleticism.” The Wildcats are frighteningly fast all over the court, and their length on the defensive end will change a ton of shots. The forward positions couldn’t possibly be more loaded. Darius Miller, Gilchrist, Davis, and Terrence Jones are all terrific players who have skills that could fit right into the NBA. The Wildcats also have the ability to stretch the defense because guys like Doron Lamb and Jones can hit the three ball consistently.
Depth could be a bit of an issue at the point guard spot. Teague is very good, but they won’t want him playing the entire game. The center spot could also be an issue, since the team doesn’t really have a true center anymore.
Kentucky Wildcats 2011-2012 Basketball Schedule
Kentucky has definitely set up a non-conference schedule that will give them plenty of challenges. The Wildcats play Kansas, St. John’s, and North Carolina all in the first month of the season. The SEC won’t be a terribly deep league, but the Wildcats will have some tough battles against Vanderbilt and Florida this season. The February 11th game at Vanderbilt will be a raucous environment with College Gameday present. The Wildcats finish the season with a tough game at Florida.
Kentucky Wildcats 2011-2012 Prediction: (#1 Seed in NCAA Tournament, Loss in National Championship Game)
The Kentucky Wildcats should a very good team this year. The athleticism they have all over the court will give opponents major matchup problems. I think the lack of a true center could hurt them in the end. Still, this team should win the SEC, and I believe they make it all the way to the National Championship Game.