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Kentucky Basketball: Biggest Challenges for John Calipari in 2013-14

Bobby ReaganFeatured ColumnistOctober 22, 2013

Kentucky Basketball: Biggest Challenges for John Calipari in 2013-14

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    Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

    John Calipari has restored Kentucky basketball into the powerhouse it was for most of its history. Despite winning a national title and taking a couple teams to the Final Four, that doesn't mean Calipari doesn't face any challenges year after year.

    Calipari and Kentucky will need to replace leading scorer Archie Goodwin as well as a team leader in Julius Mays. However, with an impressive recruiting class and the returns of Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress, Kentucky is expected to challenge for another national championship.

    Read on to see some of the challenges Calipari will have to answer in order to raise another banner in Rupp Arena. 

Balancing James Young and Alex Poythress

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    Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    Having two McDonald's All-Americans competing for playing time at the same position is hardly a downfall, but it can present a problem for Kentucky and John Calipari this season. Sophomore Alex Poythress is expected to start at the small forward position, but freshman James Young has garnered all the pre-season buzz.

    Poythress battled an up-and-down freshman campaign in Lexington but decided to return to Kentucky to improve his draft stock and live up to the expectations he had coming into school. At 6'9", he has the ability to play both on the wing and in the post, which he demonstrated last year. 

    Young is slightly shorter at 6'7" but a much better outside shooter. Despite being a couple inches shorter, Young is still able to guard multiple positions like Poythress does defensively. 

    Both players will see a decent amount of playing time and could play alongside each other, especially down the stretch of a close game. However, it will be a battle for who starts the game. 

How Often to Play All Freshmen

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    Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    When you have six McDonald All-American's commit to your school, the argument of best recruiting class ever begins to creep up. That's exactly what happened with the 2013 recruiting class that committed to John Calipari and Kentucky.

    With the six players covering all five positions, there's no doubt in anyone's mind that Calipari could throw out a lineup of all freshmen. The question is rather, how often do we see all five freshmen on the court together? 

    Most of the time, this will be determined by fatigue from Willie Cauley-Stein or foul trouble. James Young and Dakari Johnson are expected to be the first two off the bench to spell Cauley-Stein and Poythress. If that's the case, then we will see the all-freshmen lineup almost every game. 

     

Is Willie Cauley-Stein an Offensive Threat?

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    Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    Willie Cauley-Stein started last season as a mess on the offensive side of the ball. However, once Nerlens Noel went down with a torn ACL, Cauley-Stein became a focal point of Kentucky's offense.

    Despite improving, he still showed signs of his raw skill set. He would settle for a forced hook shot that looked more like a fast ball at the rim rather than a shot. For his size, he did show an ability to handle the ball quite well but no touch from the free-throw line.

    How much has Cauley-Stein improved offensively in the offseason will be a big question on Kentucky fans' minds. If he has continued to improve and adds touch to his shot selection, the Wildcats will be almost impossible to guard no matter who is on the floor. 

     

High Expectations

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    Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    Sure, John Calipari has dealt with high expectations heading into a season before. But, he hasn't gone through that with the main core of this roster. That's the double-edged sword Calipari deals with when it comes to his recruiting style.

    We've seen teams succeed despite the high pressure (i.e., winning a national title in 2012). We've also seen teams fall apart with the pressure beating down on them, for instance the entire 2012-13 season. 

    Calipari will have to quickly work with his team on what it's like to play with the target on their backs. In fact, Calipari has already brought some pressure on his team himself by bringing up his desire numerous times to go 40-0. 

    This team has the makings of the team that won the national title, but as we learned the last couple of years, you never know the personality of a team until they are on the court. 

Who Is the Backup Point Guard?

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    Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    Andrew Harrison very well might be the best point guard in the country next year. However, despite that, there will be at least one game where he is in foul trouble or simply needs a break. 

    The problem is there isn't a true backup point guard that can provide close to what Harrison is capable of. Jarrod Polson had a couple of decent games last season filling in for Ryan Harrow but was often struggling against more athletic defenders.

    The other backup options would be Dominique Hawkins, who played more of a combo guard in high school, and Harrison's twin brother Aaron, who is a shooting guard. 

    The two main factors that will determine who Calipari moves to the point position when Andrew Harrison is sitting on the bench will be the score and the athleticism of the team Kentucky is playing. More often than not, don't be surprised to see Aaron Harrison move to the point position with James Young coming in at the shooting guard spot.

     

     

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