Originally posted on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 10/30/13
For more preseason coverage of the 2013-14 college basketball season, click here. Let me get this straight: the University of Kentucky boasts the best recruiting class since the Fab Five and they aren't ranked No. 1? This has to be some kind of misunderstanding, right? I understand that you have to pay respect to the champs, but the University of Louisville lost their leader and best player, Peyton Siva, while the Wildcats brought in SIX McDonald's All-Americans. Is that even possible? Well, when Kentucky and coach John Calipari receive a clean slate like they do every season, it is. Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin both left Lexington for the NBA draft. Julius Mays is playing professionally overseas in Italy. Kyle Wiltjer and Ryan Harrow transferred to Gonzaga and Georgia State, respectively. The only players still there who will see legitimate playing time are Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Jarrod Polson. So basically, the Wildcats cut the fat off their roster and what remains are two raw players with immense potential and a smart and tough senior backup point guard. With the exception of last season, every Calipari-coached Wildcat team has had the luxury of some returning players who could lead the freshman in the right direction and give the teams some experience in adverse times. And with the exception of last season, every Calipari-coached Wildcat team has been elite. The 2012-13 Cats lost all six of the players who received significant playing time the previous season. That obviously impaired their year, as they were humiliated in the first round of the NIT. Well, that and a nucleus of players who cared more about themselves and proving their NBA worth than playing as a team and achieving a common goal. Every other Calipari team at Kentucky had some extent of this idea in their makeup, but the national champion 2011-12 Wildcats were infused with that type of mentality. And that truly will be what defines this year's rendition's success or failure. As for the talent, well, that is already there. Let's start with the returners. Poythress and Cauley-Stein will play major roles on this team whether they start or not. Poythress's potential as an explosive scorer is there, as he has the power to bang with the big boys in the paint, but also has the quickness to take forwards off the dribble. We saw flashes of his ability last season, but at the same time, we saw him disappear in front of our eyes. He will need to improve his consistency this season, which will happen if he ends up coming off of the bench. He will be able to come in and immediately score in bunches and make his presence felt. Also, with Cal's depth in the front court, he will be able to play around with some interesting lineups, where Poythress's versatility will be an asset. Poythress will probably begin the year in the starting lineup out of respect, but he needs to prove that he can play at a high level consistently or he will end up losing his starting job. That will be an interesting storyline to watch as the season goes on. Cauley-Stein, on the other hand, will compete with freshman Dakari Johnson for the starting center role. Cauley-Stein is as raw as they get, but he proved his value when Noel was out last season. He does suffer at the line, though, as he shot 37.2 percent from the free throw line, so expect Johnson to be in the game late. It looks like Cauley-Stein will start the season as the starter, but that position is far from his. It will be decided based on how the two centers play throughout the season. The Cats' star jewel, though, is a guy with no competition for his job. Julius Randle is arguably the second best NBA prospect behind Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins. He has a huge body (6'9", 250 pounds) and will be a fantastic rebounder for this team, which will be essential in jump-starting the fast-break offense. He will eat up defenders in the middle on offense, which will create space for Kentucky's shooters and he will most likely become a vocal leader on this team seeing as he is the guy. Rounding out the Wildcats' frontcourt is freshman Marcus Lee. Lee will quietly become one of the team's most important pieces. He is a highly athletic forward who can come off the bench and infuse energy back into a tired unit. He will also provide impressive defense and is fantastic at running the floor, so don't be surprised to see him finish some impressive dunks in the fast-break. In the backcourt, the Cats have three standouts. Andrew and Aaron Harrison and James Young will contribute to a great deal of the scoring, but the question is, how will Cal get all three of these guys enough playing time? Andrew Harrison is going to start at point guard and won't have to worry about playing time, but Young and Aaron Harrison are both prolific scorers. Young is a better shooter, which is something this offense will need, but Aaton has the advantage of being related to the point guard. It's a tough decision that will be decided on the court, but it makes more sense to start Young because he can spread the defense out with his shooting, while Harrison can come off the bench and score in bunches. Andrew Harrison, on the other hand, is just another addition to the list of legendary Kentucky point guards under Cal. Point guards are essential in Calipari's dribble-drive offense and Harrison will prove to be no different. He will become a court general like all of Cal's other point guards and lead this team offensively. It will be hard for you to find a team that will be more entertaining to watch than this squad. Calipari may have bit off a little more than he can chew this year and the idea of Cal having too talented a team to win is a pretty enticing storyline. The important positions for him to figure out are center, small forward, and shooting guard, but what team doesn't have their questions at this point in the season? The difference between Kentucky and every other team is their problem is they may be too good for their own good.

This article first appeared on The Sports Post and was syndicated with permission.

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