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Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: The Big Man Situation

With Marques Bolden off to Duke, what are John Calipari's options in the middle?

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats had a fantastic season in 2015/2016. They won the SEC tournament, they won the SEC regular season and earned a 4 seed in the NCAA tournament. But they were taken out by the Indiana Hoosiers on the first weekend and what was once a promising year ended in disappointment.

While John Calipari coached arguably the best backcourt in the nation with Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray, and Isaiah Briscoe, the frontcourt left much to be desired. Skal Labissiere never turned into the player we all thought he would be at Kentucky, Alex Poythress was inconsistent and battled knee problems, Derek Willis was hampered by injury, Isaac Humphries was too raw, and Marcus Lee was never really a threat on offense.

All of John Calipari's successful teams had one or more extremely good big men. In 2010 Demarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson; in 2011 Josh Harrellson stepped up but his job was made easy by a beastly Terrence Jones; in 2012 Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones was as good as it gets in the post; in 2014 John Calipari enjoyed Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson, Alex Poythress, and Willie Cauley-Stein, Marcus Lee as his bigs; in 2015 the Wildcats were overflowing with talent with Karl-Anthony Towns, WCS, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, and Trey Lyles.

But in 2012 the "Cats failed to make the tournament for multiple reasons, one of them being that their best player and best big man, Nerlens Noel, suffered a season-ending knee injury. Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress weren't ready to shoulder the load down low.

And I already outlined the big man woes of the most recent season. The question remains, do 'Cats have a big man skilled enough to make them elite?

Here is with whom Cal is working:

Bam Adebayo

Measurements- 6'9 240 Pounds

Edrice "Bam" Adebayo will provide the rebounding and the toughness inside that Kentucky was missing last year. His natural position is power forward, but he played center in both the McDonald's America Game and the Jordan Brand Classic. He outplayed both Marques Bolden and Jarrett Allen at that position.

While he can play center, I think Cal will want to play him at the four spot as much as he can. His strength and athleticism will be a problem for any power forward in the country to combat. He has the potential to be as dominant as Terrence Jones was in 2011 and thus cover up any deficiencies at center. He should be the primary go-to player in the post.

Sacha Killeya-Jones

Measurements- 6'11 215 Pounds

SKJ reminds me of Willie Cauley-Stein but with more offensive polish and less athleticism. Killeya-Jones  is great at running the floor, has nice hands, and a good finishing touch around the rim. There will be plenty of scoring on the court with De'Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, and Bam Adebayo, so SKJ will be needed for rebounding and blocking shots mostly. He has the potential to be a great defender and any offense he can add will be a great bonus. He is also a tough player that is willing to battle in the paint.

Wenyen Gabriel

Measurementments- 6'10 215 Pounds

Wenyen Gabriel is a hustler and one of the biggest mysteries on the team. Where will John Calipari play him? The plan is to place the ultra-talented Gabriel on the wing and let him go to work. He's raw but he is big and has a high motor. So even if his perimeter skills are a work in progress, Gabriel is another big body for Kentucky that can rebound and block shots.

But if Gabriels' offense progresses and it clicks, he can be a game-changer for John Calipari. There aren't many small forwards or shooting guards that can handle his size and athleticism.

Marcus Lee (?)

Measurements- 6'9 224 Pounds

2016 Statistics- 21.8 minutes per game, 6.4 points per game, 6.0 rebounds per game, 1.6 blocks per game

It seemed like a foregone conclusion that Lee was headed to the NBA. He was officially invited to the combine but he underperformed. Lee, while a great athlete with length, never has developed a good offensive game.

But he would be a perfect fit for this team. He won't be asked to score outside of catching lobs from the guards and getting putbacks. He will be the perfect fit as he will be asked to do what he does best: fly around the floor, rebound, and block shots. I think that Lee can shine on this team and his return would be huge in terms of leadership.

Isaac Humphries

Measurements- 7'0 260 Pounds

2016 Stats- 9.1 minutes per game, 1.9 points per game, 2.4 rebounds per game, 0.7 blocks per game

If Marcus Lee does not return, Isaac Humphries becomes vital as a veteran big man with in-game college experience. We saw flashes from Isaac during the regular season, particularly his 12 rebound performance against Texas A&M during the regular season, but there were times that John Calipari could not play him due to his defense.

Isaac has good footwork, decent hands, and has the ability to knock down a jump shot. But can he get stronger in the post. Remember, he just turned 18 years old and his potential was barely scratched. If Isaac puts in the work this summer, he could have a big season.

Derek Willis

Measurements- 6'9 220 Pounds

2016 Stats- 18.6 minutes per game, 7.7 points per game, 44.2% three-point shot, 4.0 rebounds per game

Willis blossomed this year thanks to his dedication to rebounding, defense, and his three-point shooting prowess. Willis will give this team a knock-down outside shot that will spread the floor and allow the guards to penetrate and do their greatest damage. While Willis doesn't have the post moves of a big man, he can rebound, block shots, and drag other forwards out onto the perimeter.

WIllis is going to be a vital member of the 2016 team and if his confidence continues to grow, he can be another great leader with Marcus Lee.

Tai Wynyard

Measurements- 6-10 255 Pounds

2016 Stats- Redshirted

Wynyard is a big mystery. The native Kiwi came to Kentucky in December and fans immediately thought that he would contribute right away. But as the season continued, it became apparent that he was not going to be a factor. Why? There are a few different ways to answer that question.

It is a tall order to ask a player to come in and gel right away at midseason, especially if he hasn't been around at all. He was behind as far as plays, concept, and even chemistry. Also, there were questions to whether he was ready as far as his skills were concerned. Word around campus was that he wasn't ready to compete at a skill level.

Wynyard is one of the biggest, strongest guys on the team, but if his talent level is below the freshmen and the returning players, we won't see him much in 2016. But all of that is hard to judge considering nobody has really seen him play outside of his teammates and coaches.

Wrapping it All Up

Marques Bolden is a really good player and the Duke Blue Devils should be excited to have him, but he would have been a luxury at Kentucky. There is enough size and talent on the post, and a variety of both, that I think Kentucky will be just fine with the players they have already.

I think Bam is going to be the primary target down low, will there be another player to compliment him? The problems that John Calipari had with hustle, rebounding, and defense should not be an issue this coming season.

So the sky isn't falling Big Blue Nation and this team is just fine the way it is. Remember, Kentucky has 5 players with a 5-star rankings, the most out of any class, including Duke's.