2009-2010 Kentucky Wildcats Season Preview
By Ryno of Predictem.com
Last Season: 22-14 overall, 8-8 SEC, NIT Quarterfinals
Head Coach: John Calipari
Key Losses: Jodie Meeks, Michael Porter
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: John Wall 6-4 Fr.
SG: Ramon Harris 6-7 Sr.
SF: Darnell Dodson 6-7 So.
PF: Patrick Patterson 6-9 Jr.
C: DeMarcus Cousins 6-11 Fr.
Key Reserves: Eric Bledsoe 6-1 Fr. PG, Josh Harrellson 6-10 Jr. PF, Jon Hood 6-6 Fr. SG, DeAndre Liggins 6-6 So. SG, Darius Miller 6-7 So. SG, Daniel Orton 6-10 Fr. PF, Perry Stevenson 6-9 Sr. PF
Current 2010 National Championship Odds: 5-1.
Going from an NIT team to a Final Four favorite is very drastic, but the changes that Kentucky made in the offseason are that drastic. John Calipari takes over this program with an incredible recruiting class that includes the top two recruits in the country. With Patrick Patterson back for his junior year, freshmen John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins possibly only in Lexington for one year before entering the NBA Draft, and a cast of new and returning role players, this is the year for the Wildcats. Calipari is working hard to mesh this unit together and possibly win his first ever national championship.
Who’s In/Who’s Out
Most importantly, Billy Gillispie is out as the head coach and Calipari is in. The Gillispie era lasted just two seasons and included losses to VMI and Gardner-Webb. After missing the NCAA tournament last season, that was the last straw for Gillispie. Calipari was hired to take this program back in the right direction. He instantly brought in an incredible recruiting class. Wall is the No. 1 recruit in the country and Cousins is No. 2. Jon Hood and Eric Bledsoe are also top 100 recruits, and Darnell Dodson was a highly rated recruit last year before spending a year at a junior college. Jodie Meeks is the only vital loss for this team. Meeks could have stayed at Kentucky, but he opted to leave early for the NBA Draft, where he was drafted in the second round by the Milwaukee Bucks. Meeks led the team in scoring last season with 23.7 points per game and he would have made this team even more dangerous. But with all of the quality incoming and returning players, the Wildcats won’t have much trouble replacing the scoring void.
Think of the incredible freshmen over the past few years - Kevin Durant, Greg Oden, Michael Beasley, O.J. Mayo, Eric Gordon, Derrick Rose, etc. Wall can be that good or possibly even better. Wall is a 6-foot-4 ultra-quick, super athletic point guard. He can best be compared to Rose, but quicker and more athletic. Wall’s size enables him to see over defenders and make ridiculous passes. His quickness is reminiscent of T.J. Ford at Texas. His athleticism at the point guard position is virtually unprecedented. He can dunk over big men, catch alley-oops, and block shots above the rim. Fans in Lexington will have a fun time watching Wall this season. Calipari has plenty of options to put alongside Wall, but it’s difficult to say who the clear favorites are. Darnell Dodson is a slashing wing who can create his own shots and knock down open jumpers. Ramon Harris is a senior who started almost every game last season, so he gives the ‘Cats some experience. DeAndre Liggins and Darius Miller are athletic wings who can handle the ball well and got solid experience as freshmen last season. Eric Bledsoe is a highly rated point guard recruit who can back up Wall or play alongside him, allowing Wall to take on more of a scoring role.
Patterson is one of the best power forwards in the country. The 6-foot-9 junior has terrific post moves. He has the quickness and athleticism to get by most opposing big men, and he can also step out and hit jumpers. Patterson is the team’s leading returning scorer (17.9 ppg) and rebounder (9.3 rpg). Cousins is a strong, physical freshman at 6-foot-11 and 260 pounds. He can abuse defenders around the rim, dominate the boards, and block shots. Patterson and Cousins won’t come off the floor too much, but there are other options for Calipari down low. Freshman Daniel Orton is a strong 6-foot-10 power forward who was rated as a top 10 recruit before missing much of last season with a knee injury. If he is 100 percent, Orton is good enough to start on any team. Perry Stevenson started 34 of the 36 games last season but he will be coming off the bench this season with the added talent. Josh Harrellson can also provide solid minutes, but he won’t be seeing the floor much this season.
One of the strengths of this team is that there are multiple scoring options. Wall, Patterson and Cousins are all capable of carrying a team. Players like Orton, Dodson and Hood could also turn out to be solid scoring options. This team has a lot of depth, especially on the wings and down low. Foul trouble and injuries won’t affect the ‘Cats much. The biggest strength for this team is its size. Most of the time, the smallest player on the court for this team will be 6-foot-4 (Wall). In most cases, the ‘Cats will have the size advantage at every position.
There aren’t any particularly great shooters on this team. That’s one thing they will really miss with Meeks gone. When the ‘Cats are down by three late in the game, who will shoot a 3-pointer? Wall, Dodson, Hood, Bledsoe, Harris, Miller and Liggins all aren’t great long range shooters. This team could struggle early in the season because of a lack of experience. It might take a few games until all of the new players get experience and figure out how to play well together.
Betting Odds and Projections
Kentucky has 5-1 odds on Bodog to win the 2010 national championship. The Wildcats have enough talent to win a title, but this team hasn’t really played together yet. With a new coach and so many young players, will this team be able to mesh well and dominate the SEC? That’s what is expected out of them, but it’s not always that easy. It’s tough to exceed the expectations that Kentucky has for this season. And since Carmelo Anthony led Syracuse to the national title in 2004, no freshman has led a team to the title. Patterson isn’t a freshman, but Wall and Cousins will have a lot to do with how far this team goes. The Final Four is a strong possibility for the Wildcats, but beating more experienced teams once they get there will be difficult.