Defense and Wiltjer Keys for Next Season

Eamonn Brennan of ESPN.com takes a look at Kentucky’s roster for next season and gives his thoughts on what is the most important factors for the Wildcats shot to go the distance.

[I][COLOR=#333333][FONT=verdana]But by now, we know Calipari’s teams, and what he does to get them to defend like mad almost as soon as they take the court, and it’s safe to expect a similar defensive trajectory for his new-look squad. That starts with Noel, a massive interior presence who specializes in blocking shots. Many recruiting analysts believe Noel is already a better shot-blocker than was Davis, who set all kinds of team and conference records as a freshman. Noel is a different sort of player than Davis, a more traditional big man who’s been big all his life (as opposed to Davis’s freakish high school growth spurt), but it’s safe to expect him to provide a similar role on defense: When Kentucky’s guards and forwards are beat off the dribble, Noel will be there to cover it all up. [/FONT][/COLOR]

[COLOR=#333333][FONT=verdana]Knowing Calipari, that will be step one in building out another defensive force. It never hurts when your best recruit just so happens to excel precisely at keeping the ball out of the basket. Handy, that. [/FONT][/COLOR]

[COLOR=#333333][FONT=verdana]The bigger questions are on offense, where Calipari has proved amenable to changing his system based on the needs of his current group of players. Noel is far rawer offensively than was Davis, but [/FONT][/COLOR][URL="http://espn.go.com/colleges/basketball/recruiting/school/_/id/96/class/2012"]Calipari has a pair of talented incoming wings[/URL][COLOR=#333333][FONT=verdana] in small forward Alex Poythress and shooting guard Archie Goodwin, the No. 3- and No. 4-ranked players at their positions, respectively. He will also have former NC State transfer Ryan Harrow inheriting point guard responsibilities, and the lone holdover from the 2012 rotation, sophomore forward [/FONT][/COLOR][URL="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/_/id/56355/kyle-wiltjer"]Kyle Wiltjer[/URL][COLOR=#333333][FONT=verdana], stretching the floor with his shooting. [/FONT][/COLOR]

[COLOR=#333333][FONT=verdana]It’s not inconceivable to think Wiltjer may become Kentucky’s leading scorer in 2012-13. Though Wiltjer played just 11 minutes a game as a freshman, he took the highest percentage of his team’s shots (25 percent) while on the floor, and he excels at running pick-and-pop plays designed to get him open looks on the perimeter. As SI’s Luke Winn wrote in his latest power rankings, a Harrow-Wiltjer pick and pop may become UK’s bread and butter play, a win-win for Calipari and his players. If Harrow can spread the floor and utilize all three of UK’s weapons on the wing, he’ll benefit right along with Kentucky’s offense. (Pro scouts love a good pick and roll point guard, after all.)

[/FONT][/COLOR][/I][COLOR=#333333][FONT=verdana]This isn’t the first time someone has thought that Wiltjer will be the leading scorer for next season and it makes me wonder if he can carry the load offensively early while Cal figures out everyone’s role.

Defense is also key for Kyle Wiltjer which will determine if he starts or comes off the bench.. with Cal, if you don’t play defense, you don’t play. [/FONT][/COLOR]