Kentucky Basketball: One Pressing Concern for Each Wildcats Starter

Bobby Reagan@uklefty22Featured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2014

Kentucky Basketball: One Pressing Concern for Each Wildcats Starter

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    Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

    This season's Kentucky basketball team entered the year with a No. 1 ranking and lofty goals that included contending for a national title and making a run at an undefeated season.

    While the undefeated season has sailed away, the chance to contend for the national title is still very much alive. However, if the Wildcats want to make a run at their ninth title, they will need to click on all cylinders through to the end of the year. 

    When Kentucky has struggled this season, opponents have figured out a way to exploit the biggest weaknesses of each of the five Wildcat players on the floor.

    This slideshow will take a look at the most pressing concern of each Kentucky starter. 

Andrew Harrison: When to Attack vs When to Distribute

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    Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    Andrew Harrison has the potential to be one of the best point guards in the country. He's starting to adapt to Kentucky head coach John Calipari's offensive system. 

    Harrison struggled early in the season, making turnovers and failing to attack the rim when he should. At 6'5", he has the ability to shoot over opposing players or finish at the rim over a smaller defender. 

    Although only a freshman, Harrison has taken on a leadership role with this season's team. Calipari expects Harrison to direct the offense and run the team on the floor. It's important for Harrison not to do things outside of his game, forcing shots in lieu of making the pass; however, he needs to understand when he should attack the rim or feed his teammates. 

    If he can find a balance in his decision making down the stretch, Kentucky could be a very dangerous team come March. 

Aaron Harrison: Increase Shooting Percentage

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    Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    Aaron Harrison is too good of an offensive player to shoot 45 percent from the field and 30 percent from behind the arc. 

    If Kentucky wants to continue to be a threat for the national championship, Harrison needs to up those numbers, especially the three-point shooting. Harrison is going to get open looks from behind the arc due to Kentucky's ability to drive the lane and opposing coaches daring the Wildcats to beat them from the outside. 

    Another key to Harrison upping his shooting percentage is his shot selection. He needs to work his way into his shot instead of settling for a deep three. Harrison is much better when he catches the ball while stepping into his shot. 

    Harrison needs to continue to attack the rim and work for better shots before attempting them from behind the arc. If he continues to develop his offensive game, he will be one of the better shooters in the conference. 

James Young: Inconsistent Defense

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    Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    James Young has been one of the more dynamic offensive players for Kentucky this season.

    He's currently second on the team in scoring with an average of 14.3 points per game. His percentages aren't as high as expected, shooting 39 percent from the field, 32 percent from behind the arc and 67 percent from the free-throw line, but he is scoring.

    However, Young has struggled on the defensive side of the ball. Young was expected to be Kentucky's best perimeter defender this season thanks to his length and quickness. At 6'6", Young has the capability to guard multiple positions and deflect numerous passes.

    Young has struggled with rotations and transition defense. Most notably during the Michigan State game, Young was beaten down the floor too many times, something that still happens. Kentucky needs Young to step up his game defensively and to be a key component to getting stops down the stretch of games.  

Julius Randle: Handling Pressure in the Post

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    Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    There's no question that Julius Randle is the best player Kentucky has and one of the best players in the country.

    That being said, Randle often presses and forces shots instead of trusting his teammates. Opponents are starting to double and sometimes triple-team Randle in the post, making him settle to attack using his right hand or kick out of the post.

    Too many times, Randle still tries to bully his way or use his well-known spin move to get back to his left hand. If teams are going to make him go right, he needs to learn how to finish at that side of the rim. 

    Also, Randle will often get frustrated if he's not getting touches or shots that he wants. When this happens, he will go through the double and triple teams to get a shot up, often resulting in a miss and a forced shot. When Randle is frustrated, his turnovers increase exponentially. He leads the team with 3.2 turnovers per game, a number that is way too high for a post player.

    Randle needs to continue to trust his teammates and kick the ball out to the wing and re-post, either to get a pass back in the post or ready for an offensive rebound. His scoring numbers may go down if he does this, but Kentucky's wins will go up.  

Willie Cauley-Stein: Getting Back to the Old Cauley-Stein

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    James Crisp/Associated Press

    There was a time not too long ago when Willie Cauley-Stein was regarded as one of the best defenders in the country and arguably the most improved player in the nation.

    However, those ideas are long gone due to a string of terrible games for the sophomore. Cauley-Stein is averaging eight points and seven rebounds per game this year, but he has scored just three points in his last three games. He's grabbed just 10 rebounds in that time and has committed 11 fouls. 

    Cauley-Stein is a valuable player to Kentucky, and the Wildcats need him to succeed this season. When he is on the floor, Kentucky is a different team defensively. The Wildcats are able to challenge on the wing more often, knowing there is a rim protector in Cauley-Stein behind them.

    While he's never been the best player on the floor, Cauley-Stein has been one of the more valuable players this season. In order for Kentucky to win a national championship, he needs to be on the court, playing defense at the level he is capable of.