In the end we can talk about a new and improved SEC with Missouri and Texas A&M starting basketball league play in January. But in order to win the “new SEC”, you have to beat the old king and that is Kentucky. And the fols at CBS Sports say that “picking anybody other than Kentucky to hang an SEC banner anytime soon is probably foolish.” Even saying that, CBS Sports tells us what they like and don’t like about Kentucky:
What I like: Kentucky’s talent
Why: It’s well established that I’m a sucker for talent, and Kentucky — despite the losses of Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Anthony Davis and Darius Miller — is really, really talented. DraftExpress.com has four Wildcats projected as first-round picks in June’s NBA Draft; that’s more than any other team. So though I get why some might be skeptical of Kentucky (more on that in a moment), you’d be wise to take John Calipari’s team seriously. The Wildcats just might become college basketball’s first team to repeat without a single returning starter.
What I don’t like: Kentucky’s inexperience
Why: The talent is in place in Lexington this season just like it was last season. But last season’s UK team did have three veterans who entered the schedule having already averaged at least 28 minutes per game for a team that made the 2011 Final Four. This team? It doesn’t have a single player who averaged even 12 minutes per game for the Wildcats last season. So what’s on deck for Kentucky — starting Friday night in Brooklyn against Maryland — is mostly new for everybody except Calipari. It’ll be interesting to see how the fresh faces respond to the big stages. Whether they do well or not-so-well will dictate how things unfold.
If Kentucky is to move forward with a whole new starting lineup, Nerlens Noel is going to have to step up and lead this team and be a complete basketball player, and not just a player who blocks shots. I think we saw part of that transformation in the exhibition games so far, and this season will be a work in progress at times:
“I want him to be a basketball player who happens to block shots,” Calipari said. “I don’t want him to be a shot blocker, I want him to be a basketball player that happens to block shots. Did you kind of see that today? You’ve seen a basketball player who happens to be able to. And we’re defining his post game.”
Although Noel says he’ll “never stop blocking shots” and that’s “something I’ll always do,” he’s ready to elevate his game to the next level. He showed flashes of that ability against the Pioneers.
“Coach Cal really has confidence in me to develop myself and that’s something I really appreciate in coach Cal,” Noel said. “That’s something I’ll definitely put the work into being — a great all-around basketball player that happens to block shots.”
I know that you all need a Kentucky basketball fix today …. but there is a telethon tonight to support the victims of Sandy.