Kentucky Basketball: What Each Top Player Must Improve Upon Before League Play

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistDecember 8, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09:  Alex Poythress #22 (L), Archie Goodwin #10 (C), Ryan Harrow #12 (R), Kyle Wiltjer #33 (far-right) and Nerlens Noel (C-R) of the Kentucky Wildcats chat during a stoppage of play against Maryland during the Barclays Center Classic at the Barclays Center on November 9, 2012 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Jason Szenes/Getty Images)
Jason Szenes/Getty Images

Three early losses have changed the perception of Kentucky basketball. Fortunately, there is plenty of room for improvement.

Like most years, the Wildcats are once again one of the most talented teams in the country. Coach John Calipari brought in the year's top recruiting class, according to ESPN, and a number of players will certainly play in the NBA.

Still, the early play has been cause for some concern.

The team can once again return to the top of the rankings if certain players step up their play. Specifically, the team's top players must each focus on these improvements in order to make the entire team better.


Nerlens Noel: Free-Throw Shooting

One of the big differences between last year's Kentucky team and the teams of the past that fell short of winning a championship was the ability to hit free throws.

The team hit 72.5 percent of shots from the charity stripe, including a solid 70.9 percent from Anthony Davis.

Nerlens Noel does not have that ability, hitting only 53.1 percent of his free throws.

The freshman will continue to get fouled all year long as an aggressive forward. He needs to make teams pay by making his shots.

Otherwise, opponents will be able to slow down this offense using a "hack-a-Noel" strategy. 


Archie Goodwin: Turnovers

Although Archie Goodwin has the speed and ball-handling ability to become the primary ball handler in this offense, the turnovers could end up being costly.

The guard has only two games this year with fewer than three turnovers and leads the team with 3.1 turnovers per game. This would not be too bad if he averaged more than 4.5 assists per game.

Goodwin needs to make sure he plays within himself for the rest of the season and does not cause more harm than good. 


Kyle Wiltjer: Confidence

There are a lot of things that Kyle Wiltjer provides for this team, but his best skill is his ability to stretch the floor.

Last season, Wiltjer made 43.2 percent of his three-point shots in limited playing time. He started this year red-hot as well, making 12 of his first 19 from deep.

Unfortunately, he has lost his touch in the last few weeks and cannot hit the broad side of a barn. In the two losses to Baylor and Notre Dame, the sophomore went 1-for-13 from behind the arc.

Wiltjer has the talent, but he needs to figure out how to get back to his great-shooting ways. 


Alex Poythress: Aggressiveness

Alex Poythress is playing as efficiently as anyone in the nation right now. He has made 68.5 percent of his shots, including five of his seven three-point shots.

Someone playing this well should be scoring more than 15.5 points per game.

At this point of the year, the freshman is probably Kentucky's best offensive player. This means he should be taking close to 15 shots per game and getting himself to the free-throw line.

In the loss to Notre Dame, however, he only took one shot in 23 minutes.

Poythress needs to become a leader of this team for the rest of the year for the Wildcats to have a chance at contention.