#2 Kentucky Wildcats: College Basketball 111 in 111

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Welcome to The Sports Bank’s second annual college basketball season preview series.  Last year we looked at 99 teams in 99 days.  This year, we are being slightly more aggressive and expanding to 111 teams in 111 days.  We will rank the 74 power conference teams and top 37 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order.  We’ll break down rosters, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.

The Kentucky Wildcats tip-off their 2011-2012 season tonight against Marist.  All eyes will be on the top recruiting class in the country which features four McDonald’s All-Americans, three of whom were named to the Naismith Award Watch List.  With that type of talent and a few key returning players from last year, John Calipari will have the Big Blue back in the national title picture.

Check out the ultimate Kentucky Wildcats cheerleader photo gallery.

Last Season: 3rd in SEC, 10-6 in SEC, 29-9 overall
Predicted SEC Finish: 1st

Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Anthony Davis (Fr)/Eloy Vargas (Sr)
F: Terrence Jones (So)/Kyle Wiltjer (Fr)
SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Fr)/Stacy Poole (So)
SG: Darius Miller (Sr)/Doron Lamb (So)/Jon Hood (Jr-out for season)
PG: Marquis Teague (Fr)/Twany Beckham (Jr)/Jarrod Polson (So)

Gone: PG-Brandon Knight, C-Josh Harrellson, G/F-DeAndre Liggins

2011-2012 Outlook:
The crown jewel of their recruiting haul is the number one prospect in the country, Anthony Davis.  He will replace Josh Harrellson as the team’s starting big man but is far from a true center.  Listed at a generous 220 pounds, Davis is not at all physical but can still make his impact felt defensively due to his length and athleticism which makes him a dangerous and effective rebounder and shot blocker.  Offensively, he can play like a guard but is still a work in progress with his all-around game.

terrence jones kentucky

Kentucky received a major boost when Terrence Jones chose to return to school rather than leave for the NBA Draft.  The lefty is a combo forward who does a little bit of everything on the floor.  He can post up smaller opponents, take defenders off the bounce, and also shoot the three ball.  If he can show better maturity and decision-making, he will likely be an All-American.

Backing up Davis and Jones in the frontcourt will be newcomer Kyle Wiltjer and Eloy Vargas, giving Calipari a lot more depth inside than he had a year ago.  Wiltjer is a face-up four who can stroke it from the outside but also has a solid skill set with his back to the basket.  Vargas brings more physicality off the bench and will be relied on to bang around down low in the limited opportunities he will see.

The Wildcats have three wing players who are more than capable of being starters.  Darius Miller will provide the leadership for this year’s young team.  He understands his role and won’t try to do too much, but really be an asset with his improved three-point shooting he displayed last season.  Miller can also play multiple positions which gives Calpari a lot of flexibility with his line-up.

Another versatile wing is Co-MVP of McDonald’s All-American Gane, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.  MKG (this is what people are obviously going to call him, right?) will be the consummate glue guy.  He doesn’t need to score to impact a game due to his tenacity especially on the defensive end.  MKG has a NBA-ready build and is another guy capable of playing several positions.

With Miller and MKG expected to start, Doron Lamb will be the most talented sixth man in the country.  He is a pure scorer who has a sweet stroke from the outside and will likely see some time running the point as well.  Stacey Poole is the other reserve wing but is reportedly on his way out of Lexington as he is mulling over the possibility of transferring.  Seldom used Jon Hood will miss the entire season due to an ACL injury.

Marquis Teague is the next in line of Calipari-coached point guards expected to be a game changer.  He is extremely quick and athletic, but also a physical finisher at the rim.  Teague knows when to be a distributor but can also take over as a scorer when he needed.  Mississippi State transfer Twany Beckham becomes eligible after the first semester and will add depth at the point.  Jarrod Paulson gives Kentucky another option but won’t see steady playing time.

UK also picked up a key transfer in N.C. State point guard Ryan Harrow.  He will have to sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules but will practice with the team and ultimately be trained as the point guard of the future.  Harrow will join a talented crop of recruits for the 2012-2013 season which includes recent commit, SF Alex Poythress, SG Archie Goodwin, and C Willie Cauley.

Kentucky is just about everybody’s consensus number two team in the country behind North Carolina.  We will get an early look at who is the favorite to win it all when the ‘Cats and Heels square off in Lexington on December 3rd.  However, with new faces acclimating themselves to the college game and one another, it will take some time for UK to reach their potential.  Assuming that happens by March, Kentucky has as good a shot as any team in the country of cutting down the nets.

Player to Watch: Anthony Davis
Despite being the likely number one pick in next summer’s NBA Draft, Davis might actually be the fourth scoring option for the Wildcats this season.  He will need to make his biggest impact in other area of the games (like he did in high school when he posted a quadruple double)  especially since his offensive game is still rather raw.

Key Non-Conference Games:
11/15 vs. Kansas (at Madison Square Garden)
11/19 vs. Penn State (Hall of Fame Tip-Off)
11/20 vs. Old Dominion/South Florida (Hall of Fame Tip-Off)
12/1 vs. St. John’s
12/3 vs. North Carolina
12/10 at Indiana
12/31 vs. Louisville

OTHER 111 IN 111’S:
#3 Ohio State Buckeyes
#4 UConn Huskies
#5 Duke Blue Devils
#6 Syracuse Orange
#7 Baylor Bears
#8 Pitt Panthers
#9 Vanderbilt Commodores
#10 Memphis Tigers
#11 Florida Gators
#12 Xavier Musketeers
#13 Louisville Cardinals
#14 Arizona Wildcats
#15 Wisconsin Badgers
#16 Alabama Crimson Tide
#17 Gonzaga Bulldogs
#18 Marquette Golden Eagles
#19 Texas A&M Aggies
#20 Michigan Wolverines
#21 New Mexico Lobos
#22 Temple Owls
#23 Cincinnati Bearcats
#24 Kansas Jayhawks
#25 UNLV Rebels
#26 Washington Huskies
#27 UCLA Bruins
#28 Butler Bulldogs
#29 Missouri Tigers
#30 Texas Longhorns
#31 Villanova Wildcats
#32 Michigan State Spartans
#33 Florida State Seminoles
#34 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
#35 Harvard Crimson
#36 Illinois Fighting Illini
#37 Oregon Ducks
#38 Wichita State Shockers
#39 Cal Golden Bears
#40 Belmont Bruins
#41 Mississippi State Bulldogs
#42 Saint Mary’s Gaels
#43 Purdue Boilermakers
#44 BYU Cougars
#45 Kansas State Wildcats
#46 West Virginia Mountaineers
#47 Virginia Cavaliers
#48 George Mason Patriots
#49 Old Dominion Monarchs

#50 VCU Rams
#51 Kent State Golden Flashes
#52 Arkansas Razorbacks
#53 St. John’s Red Storm
#54 Northwestern Wildcats
#55 Georgetown Hoyas
#56 Miami Hurricanes
#57 Nevada Wolfpack
#58 Detroit Titans
#59 UCF Knights
#60 Long Beach State 49ers
#61 Virginia Tech Hokies
#62 Clemson Tigers
#63 New Mexico State Aggies
#64 Tennessee Volunteers
#65 Iona Gaels
#66 Murray State Racers
#67 N.C. State Wolfpack
#68 Fairfield Stags
#69 George Washingon Colonials
#70 Indiana State Sycamores
#71 Oklahoma State Cowboys
#72 Indiana Hoosiers
#73 UAB Blazers
#74 Iowa State Cyclones
#75 Creighton Bluejays
#76 USC Trojans
#77 Weber State Wildcats
#78 Maryland Terrapins
#79 Tulsa Golden Hurricane
#80 Minnesota Golden Gophers
#81 Western Michigan Broncos
#82 Dayton Flyers
#83 Stanford Cardinal
#84 Yale Bulldogs

#85 Georgia Bulldogs
#86 Rutgers Scarlet Knights
#87 Richmond Spiders
#88 Ball State Cardinals
#89 Utah State Aggies
#90 Arizona State Sun Devils
#91 Marshall Thundering Herd
#92 Oregon State Beavers
#93 Washington State Cougars
#94 Iowa Hawkeyes
#95 Ole Miss Rebels
#96 Nebraska Cornhuskers
#97 Oklahoma Sooners
#98 South Florida Bulls
#99 LSU Tigers
#100 Colorado Buffaloes
#101 DePaul Blue Demons
#102 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
#103 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
#104 Seton Hall Pirates
#105 Providence Friars
#106 Auburn Tigers
#107 South Carolina Gamecocks
#108 Texas Tech Red Raiders
#109 Penn State Nittany Lions
#110 Boston College Eagles
#111 Utah Utes

David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.  David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu.  He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.

You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.

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