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Kentucky Wildcats Basketball 2012: Who Is Likely To Start?

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Kentucky Sports Radio had a post up that included a link to this Kentucky Kernel article where Aaron Smith postulated a several possible starting lineup for UK next season. Of course, this is all just fun speculation, but it's the off season, so why not?

My feeling is that the starting lineups will look like this:

  1. Marquis Teague
  2. Doron Lamb
  3. Darius Miller
  4. Terrence Jones
  5. Anthony Davis

This leaves Michael Gilchrist as the #1 player off the bench, which is ideal because he can sub in for anyone 3-5. I do think Gilchrist will get some starts, and could wind up doing something similar to what DeAndre Liggins did this year, which is to start some games and Miller or Lamb start others. Liggins started 28 games last year, and Lamb started 14. Both Lamb, Miller and Gilchrist bring distinctly different things to the game, so I would not be surprised to see Calipari start players situationally at the 2 and 3.

What will be the most interesting is finding out who is going to be 2nd off the bench between Eloy Vargas, Jon Hood and Kyle Wiltjer. A lot depends upon how much Vargas and Hood improve in the off season, but Vargas was coming on defensively at the end of last year, so I think he would have to be the front-runner for that sub in most cases. But Wiltjer could also be that guy, depending on how quickly he learns the college game and how to defend inside. Plus, Wiltjer brings the extra dimension of perimeter shooting to the table.

It will also be interesting to see how Calipari's tendency to his preferred rotation of seven men works with all the excess bodies he is likely to have this year capable of putting in quality minutes. Yes, I know that assumes facts not in evidence, such as an offensive game for Vargas and a Jon Hood that actually turns aggressive and fearless on both ends of the floor. We waited in vain for both those things to appear this year, but perhaps another year will finally bring out the best in both.

And what about Stacey Poole? Despite his surly-appearing demeanor last year, Poole seems to be happy at UK and is the kind of player that can grow up a lot in one year and challenge for some of the leavings and scrapings that he wasn't even able to get with last year's short rotation. I think it's fairly important that he find a way to challenge for playing time this year, otherwise we could see him move on to a less difficult situation next year.

The big question for next year's team, early on at least, will be perimeter defense. Since we no longer have the luxury of Liggins, who you could stick on any player 1-4 and get quality defense, next year's team will not have that kind of flexibility. Many think, including me, that Michael Gilchrist could be that defensive stopper, and for a fact he has shown the kind of commitment it takes to develop quickly in that area. But the reality is, few players just out of high school are good defensive players in college right away.

Terrence Jones and Anthony Davis will almost certainly lead UK to another year at the top of the shot-blocking charts. Amazingly, Kentucky had the most shot blocks of any NCAA team last year and the third most per game, a stat I would never have imagined after the departure of Patrick Patterson, Daniel Orton and DeMarcus Cousins from the 2009-10 team. That's the second year in a row that UK has lead the nation in total blocks, and I'd be surprised if they weren't in the top 2 or 3 next year.

Mainly because of Jones and Davis, I think Kentucky's interior defense will be remarkable, maybe even the best we've seen here at UK. While Jones did not do too much offensively late in the season, he never did let up on defense, and next to Liggins was probably the best defender on this year's squad.

So much to look forward to. So long to wait.