Originally posted on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 12/21/13

NEW ORLEANS - MARCH 20: Coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats talks to his team during the second round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the New Orleans Arena on March 20, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Dave Martin/Getty Images)
It wasn't supposed to happen like this. Expecting back-to-back national titles at Kentucky was a little unreasonable, especially with an entirely new cast. But, John Calipari assembled a good team, led once again by a group of outstanding freshmen. Maybe a second championship wasn't within reach, but a deep tournament run, maybe even another Final Four? That seemed possible, right? Last year's Kentucky team didn't even make the NCAA tournament. It wasn't supposed to happen like this. Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin left after that one disappointing season, while Alex Poythress, a fellow top recruit with high expectations heading into the season, stayed behind for another year. He didn't want to leave after a first round NIT loss, and he had to improve his now fallen draft stock. He was second on the team in scoring (11.2 PPG) and third in rebounding (6 RPG) despite being fifth in minutes (25.8 MPG). At least now with Goodwin gone, and forward Kyle Wiltjer transferring, he would take on a larger role. Poythress hasn't even sniffed the starting lineup this season. It's a risk every returning player on a Calipari-coached team takes. They know their spot might be given to an incoming freshman with more potential. Poythress was one of those freshmen, and within a year he had become one of the "other" guys. Last season he played fewer than 20 minutes in only four of 33 games. In 11 games so far this year, he's already done so six times. He played six minutes in the team's loss to Baylor, a game in which Calipari said he "forgot" about his bench. The two forward spots have been cemented by newcomers James Young and Julius Randle. Even Willie Cauley-Stein, who played less than Poythress last year, is now producing more than him. But, as John Rothstein pointed out before the start of the season, Poythress has taken on a different role this season, aiming to be the Wildcats' glue guy. He's the sixth man on a team that doesn't have a ton of depth. So, while his actual numbers are down, he's still being relied upon to do quite a bit. Seth Davis mentioned Poythress' intangible improvements in regard to his mental approach: "Not showing up in the stats yet but I like Alex Poythress's improvement of late. Tougher and more aggressive mindset." Looking for some tangible improvement? Poythress has been one of the most efficient offensive rebounders in the country. According to Hoop Math, two-point jump shots account for 32.6 percent of the Wildcats' total field goal attempts, which is above the Division-I average of 29.6 percent. However, the Wildcats hit just 34.5 percent of those shots, slightly below the national average of 35.7 percent. Poythress's ability to hit the offensive boards can be extremely valuable for a team that enjoys shooting mid-range jumpers but doesn't particularly excel at making them. People looking for a comparison between last year's Kentucky team and the national championship winners may have hoped Poythress would be the Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to Noel's Anthony Davis. Perhaps the footsteps Poythress should be following are Darius Miller's. Of course, Poythress doesn't have the experience or mental toughness of a Final Four-tested senior. If he really wanted to show the gritty mindset Davis said he has, he'd make more than eight of his 18 free throws so far this season, which is especially important for a team that has shot 59.8 percent from the line in three losses by a combined margin of 14 points. Am I saying Poythress will be a four year player? It's obviously too soon to tell. But, he clearly went a different path than the typical elite recruit when he abstained from being one-and-done. He's not "the guy," but he's not just another guy, either. When I compare Poythress now to the moment he stepped on campus, I wonder if he's had to fit into the role given to him, or if he has finally been given a role more suitable to him. Maybe he's just adapting to the situation. Or maybe we're adapting our expectations to who he really is.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Steve Spurrier becomes special assistant to South Carolina AD

Brent Musberger wants you to bet on Joe Lunardi’s bracketology

Unranked Duke uses big first half to beat No.13 Louisville

MLB reportedly close to rule preventing collisions at second base

USOC says athletes concern about Zika shouldn't attend Games

Von Miller shares support for embattled Johnny Manziel

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

The Panthers had to use a silent snap count at the Super Bowl

Report: Lakers would fire Byron Scott to hire Luke Walton

Was Alain Vigneault right about NHL's lack of punishment towards Wayne Simmonds?

Seahawks’ Frank Clark rips Cam Newton ‘that boy a b—‘

Report: Tom Thibodeau has 'always wanted' Knicks job

Report: Luke Walton will not consider coaching offers until offseason

Andre Drummond hits 70-foot buzzer beater to end 3rd quarter

Duke's Allen appears to intentionally trip Louisville's Spaulding

Candidates for New York Knicks head coaching job

Attorney alleges Johnny Manziel ruptured ex-girlfriend's eardrum

Jeanie Buss may clean house in Lakers’ front office

Lisa Ann wants to reward Emmanuel Sanders for Super Bowl win

WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan to announce retirement

Nine best and worst players from 2015 NFL playoffs

Rodman wants Phil Jackson to know he’s ready to coach Knicks

Wade Phillips trolls Cam Newton with dabbing tweet

Top defensive performances in Super Bowl history

FBI questions Jeremy Shockey about drug and gambling ring

Coldplay drummer thought Johnny Football was real name

Wildcats News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Was Alain Vigneault right about NHL's lack of punishment towards Wayne Simmonds?

Report: Knicks fire coach Derek Fisher

The best and worst commercials from Super Bowl 50

Best and worst from Super Bowl 50

Six best plays from Super Bowl 50

Eli doesn't look thrilled as Peyton wins Super Bowl

Did Beyonce almost fall down during Super Bowl halftime show?

Curry to serve as drummer for Panthers

Report: Marshawn Lynch plans to retire

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker