Monday, September 1, 2008

Kentucky: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Team Record: 18-13, 12-4 SEC (2nd East)

Key Losses: Joe Crawford (17.9 ppg), Ramel Bradley (15.9 ppg, 3.3 apg), Derrick Jasper (4.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg)

Key Returnees: Patrick Patterson (16.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg), Jodie Meeks (8.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg), Perry Stevenson (5.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg)

Newcomers: DeAndre Liggins, Darius Miller, Kevin Galloway, Josh Harrellson, Donald Williams

The main reason Kentucky will have a chance to make their second straight NCAA tournament under Billy Gillespie is that Patrick Patterson, who is probably the favorite to win SEC player of the year, came back for his sophomore season. The 6'8", 232 lb Patterson underwent surgery during the off-season because of a stress fracture in his ankle, but he should be completely healthy by the time the season starts. There aren't many players in the country with his combination of size, strength, athleticism, and skills. It's not a stretch to say he could end up being a 1st team all-american, and with an inexperienced team around him, the 'Cats are going to go as far as Patterson can carry them.

Patterson's front court mate is junior Perry Stevenson, who started to play much better as the season went on, averaging more points, rebounds and minutes than starter Mark Coury (Coury, who is a walk-on, is rumored to be looking for a place to transfer where he will be on scholarship). Stevenson is long, athletic, and a above average defender, but offensively he is not much more than a dunker at this point. Josh Harrellson, a JuCo transfer who originally committed to Western Illinois, will also compete for minutes up front.

The backcourt is a different story as the Wildcats lost their three best ballhandlers in Ramel Bradley, Joe Crawford, and Derrick Jasper. The starting point guard spot will probably be a battle between Kevin Galloway and DeAndre Liggins, although both are more in the mold of a point forward (both are 6'6"). Galloway already has collegiate experience (JuCo transfer and former USC Trojan), so he looks to be the early favorite, but Liggins was a top-30 recruit this year and probably has more raw talent (he comes in with a rep as a penetrator with great vision and passing ability).

There are three guys that will get most of the minutes on the wing. Ramon Harris, who started 25 games last year, is UK's best perimeter defender, but doesn't bring much to the table offensively. Top-50 recruit Darius Miller, however, is much more skilled offensively, and the two should complement each other well. The wildcard for Kentucky this year will be Jodie Meeks. Meeks is a very talented two-guard who has yet to live up to his hype as a go-to scorer for UK. The 'Cats are really going to need him to step-up and be a guy who can put points on the board and take some of the pressure off of Patterson.

UPDATE: UK also signed 6'5" guard Donald Williams to a scholarship (about two days before classes started), so look for him to get some minutes as well.

Outlook: Kentucky's top six or seven are pretty good, but there is a real drop-off after that. The biggest problem for the Wildcats, however, will not be depth, it will be perimeter shooting (get this, they return a TOTAL of 38 made 3's from last year's team). Meeks is really the only guy on the perimeter that can shoot, which could be very problematic for Patterson as teams will collapse on him. That said, Kentucky is big, athletic, and will be a tough defensive team again this year. They aren't quite as good as Florida or Tennessee, but don't be surprised if they reach the second weekend of the tournament.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Sorry i don know about Kentucky . . .


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