Kentucky Basketball: Predictions for Wildcats' Team Awards
Kentucky will look entirely different from last year's team. Whether it's the roster makeover, dribble-drive offense or higher expectations to win, there is a different feel in Lexington.
The truth is, this has been the team John Calipari has waited for since he became the head coach of the Wildcats. He has arguably the best recruiting class ever, coupled with returning starters and a deep bench to make a run to another national title.
Raising its ninth banner is the only goal for Kentucky this year as well. If they are able to do that, the Wildcats will garner some national individual awards as well.
Regardless of what happens this year, we'll predict the team awards for Kentucky in the 2013-14 season.
Defensive Player of the Year: Marcus Lee
Marcus Lee is a McDonald's All-American that may see the least amount of time out of any other McDonald's All-American this season. However, he is a freak when it comes to his defensive skill set.
As a senior in California last season, Lee averaged seven blocks a game. With his 6'9" frame and long arms he will be a terror for any player that attempts a shot near the rim while Lee is on the floor.
The Wildcats will play with a tenacious attitude on the defensive side of the ball, so a perimeter defender could snatch this award away from Lee. Players such as James Young and Alex Poythress have the ability to guard four positions on the floor while both Andrew and Aaron Harrison can apply ball pressure leading to turnovers.
However, Lee will be able to impact the game more than anyone else on the roster for Kentucky. His presence alone at the rim will cause guards to think about attacking the rim and settling for long jumpers instead.
Offensive Player of the Year: James Young
Possibly, a major upset for this award is James Young receiving offensive player of the year over Julius Randle or Andrew Harrison. However, Young is more balanced than any other player on the roster offensively for the Wildcats.
It's been noted before, but NBA scouts have said Young might be the best player in the country. With a combination of speed and size at 6'7", Young has the ability to cause a mismatch no matter who is guarding him.
Young's speed allows him to blow by most defenders and is more than capable of finishing at the rim. However, that's not all Young can do. He is also arguably the best 3-point shooter on the team, forcing defenders to respect his shot as well.
Whenever Young is on the floor, expect him to be looking to attack and fill up the score sheet. He will lead the Wildcats in scoring this season and be the offensive weapon that causes other coaches nightmares.
Most Improved Player: Alex Poythress
Alex Poythress came into Kentucky as a McDonald's All-American that was expected to be a one-and-done player and NBA draft lottery pick.
Things didn't work out that way for Poythress though. He had a roller coaster of a season and fell out of the liking's of NBA scouts despite being 6'9" with an inside and outside game. The Tennessee native decided to come back for a sophomore year to help his individual growth as well as lead Kentucky to a national title.
With expectations of being the star on the team this year, Poythress will be arguably the most improved player in the country during his sophomore campaign. He'll be able to take advantage of having other great players around him to exploit the matchup problems he creates with his size and skill set.
Expect Poythress to pick up an all-conference nod at the end of the season thanks to his improvement. Also, don't be surprised to hear his name called during the lottery of next year's NBA draft.
Team MVP: Andrew Harrison
James Young, Julius Randle and Aaron Harrison might score more points. Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee will grab more rebounds. Young, Randle and Lee will be on SportsCenter for ridiculous dunks during the season.
But, none of that will matter because it will be Andrew Harrison who is the MVP of this Kentucky team.
In fact no one will be able to score or make a highlight dunk without Harrison on the floor. He is a unique blend of size, power, speed, passer and scorer to make the ultimate point guard for Calipari's 2013-14 team.
Harrison will be the conductor of the team this year. It will be somewhat of a magician's act to keep every player on the team happy with enough shots while still getting his own points that Harrison will have to master. The one positive for him, he's played with a star, in his twin brother, Aaron, his entire life and has experienced this type of dilemma before.
He changes the game incredibly by being able to attack the rim while not turning the ball over and setting up his teammates for success. Defensively, he's slightly underrated and will be able to apply pressure to the opposing point guard and can guard multiple positions at 6'5".
In order to raise its ninth national championship banner it will be a team effort. But that effort will begin with Harrison and his success will determine the team's success.