Marquis Teague

Weekend Preview: The most important story lines as CBB kicks off

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So about this new Kentucky team…

There are a myriad of intriguing and important story lines surrounding the headline game of the Barclays Center Classic between No. 3 Kentucky and Maryland. It’s the first college basketball game to be played in Jay-Z’s new arena. (I don’t care if it’s not ‘technically’ Jay-Z’s arena.) It’s the first game that Maryland will play with Dez Wells, who was surprisingly cleared to play on Wednesday. It’s the first game the two teams will play after Kentucky beat out the Terps for the Harrison Twins. It’s the launch of Maryland’s relevancy under Mark Turgeon. The reigning national champs. Nerlens Noel’s first game. The list goes on and on and on.

But for me, the most intriguing part of this game will be seeing just how Kentucky’s rotation is built. Coach Cal will find a way to make this team work well together, but I’m struggling to figure out a way that can happen. The best shooter on the team is a power forward, Kyle Wiltjer, who can’t defend and who is the fourth-best front court player on the roster. Getting the five best players on the floor requires using two seven-foot centers, Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein, together while playing a combo-forward, Alex Poythress, at the three. Ryan Harrow isn’t at the same level as the likes of Derrick Rose and John Wall, and may not be on the same level as Marquis Teague. How will they all mesh?

Five more story lines to follow:

  • I’m on a boat: After last year’s inaugural Carrier Classic, there are three games that will be played on the decks of an aircraft carrier this Friday. How long will this gimmick last? Look, I’m all for supporting our troops, but basketball wasn’t meant to be played outside unless it’s the middle of the summer and there is a blacktop involved. Last season, Michigan State and North Carolina were two of the best teams in the country, and they put together a fairly ugly game to watch. As picturesque as the games are, it’s not exactly great basketball that will be played. How long will it be before the novelty wears off?
  • No one can see Tony Mitchell vs. Doug McDermott: The best individual matchup of the weekend will take place in the mid-major ranks, as an all-american will be squaring off with a future lottery pick. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that both of these teams could feasibly be playing during the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. But when they tip at 8:05 p.m. in Omaha on Friday night, the only people that will be able to see the game are the folks in the stadium and those that pay for the live-stream on Creighton’s website. I’m not here trying to pass around blame, but I will say that it’s a bummer it won’t be on TV anywhere.
  • UConn kicks off their season of irrelevance: Kevin Ollie is coaching for a contract. That’s essentially what this season comes down to. He’s not officially an interim coach replacing the legendary Jim Calhoun, but he may as well be; he’s working with a one-year contract. Will he be able to get a young UConn team with a talented back court to play well enough to earn an extension?
  • The new Pauley Pavilion opens: After spending last season playing all over Southern California, UCLA returns to their newly-renovated digs at 11:00 p.m. on Friday night to take on a good Indiana State team. And not only will it be our first glimpse at the new arena, it will be our first chance to see one of the nation’s most enigmatic teams. Is Josh Smith in shape? Can Kyle Anderson be a point guard? Will the Bruins, without Shabazz Muhammad, come close to living up to their lofty preseason expectations?
  • Steve Masiello takes Manhattan into Louisville: Former Cardinal assistant Steve Masiello takes his MAAC-favorite Manhattan Jaspers into the KFC Yum! Center to take on national title favorite Louisville. Will his boys be able to put up a fight? Is Louisville going to be able to iron out their offensive issues?

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Top 25 Countdown: No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats

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Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To look at the rest of the Top 25, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 38-2, 16-0 SEC (1st); Won the National Title

Head Coach: John Calipari

Key Losses: Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague, Terrence Jones, Darius Miller, Doron Lamb

Newcomers: Alex Poythress, Nerlens Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein, Ryan Harrow, Archie Goodwin, Julius Mays

Projected Lineup:

G: Ryan Harrow, So.
G: Archie Goodwin, Fr.
F: Alex Poythress, Fr.
F: Kyle Wiltjer, So.
C: Nerlens Noel, Fr.
Bench: Willie Cauley-Stein, Fr.; Julius Mays, Sr.; Twany Beckham, Sr.; Jon Hood, Jr.

Outlook: As is the norm for this Kentucky program, there aren’t going to be many familiar faces on the Wildcat roster heading into the 2012-2013 season. Gone is just about everyone significant from last year’s team, with all six of Kentucky’s key players getting drafted in 2012.

What that means is, once again, Coach Cal is going to have to build his team from the bottom up, and he’s going to have to do it quickly — in just nine days, he’ll be kicking off the season with a trip to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to take on Maryland, heading to Atlanta just four days later to take on Duke. The learning curve for this group is is non-existent.

There’s no question about the talent level and NBA potential on this crop of ‘Cats. Nerlens Noel isn’t the second coming of Anthony Davis simply because he doesn’t have the same advanced perimeter skills that Davis did, but that doesn’t change the fact that Noel is a dominant interior force on the defensive end of the floor. He may even be a better shot-blocker than Davis was, and surely his ability on the offensive end will develop as the season progresses.

What’s scary is that, thus far in the preseason, the excitement for this group seems to be more about Willie Cauley-Stein than Noel. Cauley-Stein is seven-feet tall and was a wide receiver in high school, which should give you a bit of an idea of his athleticism. He’s very raw, maybe even more so than Noel, but with those two taking the floor at the same time, opponents may not be able to get a shot off within 10 feet of the rim.

Joining them up front will be Alex Poythress and Kyle Wiltjer. Poythress is a guy that may have the most potential for success this season, as he seems to be one of the more polished freshmen in the class. He’s a 6-foot-7, athletic combo-forward that has really put on muscle-mass since arriving on campus. He could have the same kind of impact as Terrence Jones did as a freshman, minus the attitude issues. Wiltjer could be the x-factor for this group. He’s by far the best perimeter shooter on the roster, and the fact that he’s a 6-foot-9 forward makes him a tough matchup. The question mark with him is simply how he well he’s going to be able to defend and rebound.

In the back court, Ryan Harrow takes over the point guard role. A transfer from NC State, Harrow spent last season redshirting and practicing every day against Marquis Teague. He’s not the same kind of talent as Coach Cal’s last five point guard recruits, however, and it will be interesting to see just how successful he ends up being in the role. Archie Goodwin will likely be the best perimeter scoring threat. He’s a hyper-athletic, 6-foot-5 slasher that understands how to get to the rim and score. Kentucky may end up needing him to be a guy that averages about 15 points given some of their other question marks offensively. Julius Mays, Twany Beckham and Jon Hood are the other guys that could end up seeing time in the back court.

The biggest question mark I have with this Kentucky group is simple: How well does this roster fit together? Cauley-Stein and Noel are, essentially, the same player — big, tall, athletic shot-blockers that can’t do much offensively besides dunk the ball. But Kentucky’s best lineup is probably going to be with both of them on the floor together because I’m not completely sold on Wiltjer being a good fit for Cal’s system. This is a group that is going to have to thrive on athleticism and defense, especially early in the season, and those are the two biggest weaknesses for Wiltjer.

The problem with leaving Wiltjer off the floor is that he’s really the only guy that is the kind of shooter that cannot be left open; Kentucky has no one to play the role that Deandre Liggins and Darius Miller have the past three seasons. Poythress seems like a better fit at the four than at the three, but he needs to play the three because Kentucky isn’t very deep in the back court. That means that either Cauley-Stein or Wiltjer is going to have to play major minutes unless one of Beckham, Mays or Hood can prove that can be a defensive stopper and three-point marksman.

Predictions?: There’s plenty of talent here, and if there is anything in Calipari’s coaching repertoire that rivals his ability to recruit, it’s his ability to convince elite talents to buy into playing a specific role for the betterment of the team. I don’t doubt that he’ll find a way to get his best five players on the floor at the same time; one of the most interesting subplots to the college basketball season as a whole will be to watch what he does to make that happen. I don’t think that Kentucky is as safe of a bet to win the SEC as a lot of people are giving them credit for simply because I believe Missouri is being severely underrated. That said, as long as Kentucky as this much talent on their roster and Coach Cal making their decisions, they have to be considered a top three team and a national title contender.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Kentucky to install part of 2012 Final Four floor into new Rupp Arena locker room

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Kentucky enjoyed its national championship so much, it figured it might as well bring some memorabilia home.

John Calipari and the Wildcats will install close to 3,000 square feet of the 2012 national championship floor from the SuperDome in New Orleans into a renovated locker room at Rupp Arena.

“I’m not sure I’ve heard of any other locker room doing anything like this,” Calipari said in a release from the school. “But then again, it seems like here at Kentucky we do a lot of things that have never been done.”

Major pieces include the logo at center court, which will be placed in the middle of the team’s locker room, as well as the free throw line where Doron Lamb hit two late free throws.

As you’d expect, there is a recruiting angle to the move, which Calipari acknowledges.

“It does motivate when we’re bringing families in there and recruits in there and all of a sudden they’re like, ‘Wait a minute,’ ” Calipari said. “So yes, it’s going to be a motivating factor in us continuing to get the best and the brightest players here.”

The ironic part, though, is that most of the players integral to winning the championship will never step on the new locker room floor while suiting up for a UK game, as most have move on to the NBA, including Anthony Davis, Marquis Teague, Terrence Jones, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Darius Miller, and Lamb.

Calipari is working to raise money for charity, too, with the installation of the floor, partnering with Northwestern Mutual to auction off the remainder of the floor.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Report: Anthony Davis, Marquis Teague, Terrence Jones to declare for NBA draft

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According to Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv, Terrence Jones, Anthony Davis, and Marquis Teague will all leave Kentucky for the NBA draft.

It was reported earlier Monday that Terrence Jones would be headed to the draft, but this report confirms what many had been thinking almost all season.

Jones is projected to be the 11th overall pick in this year’s draft after averaging 12.3 points and 7.2 rebounds for the national champion Wildcats.

Davis averaged 14.3 points, 10 rebounds, and 4.7 blocks for Kentucky, on his way to winning National Rookie of the Year and National Player of the Year.

He is expected to be selected with the first overall pick in June’s draft. The Charlotte Bobcats are the team with the highest odds of winning the NBA draft lottery and grabbing the No. 1 pick.

Teague, after being under criticism for his play early in the season, grew into his own and was integral to the Wildcats’ success in March.

On the year, he averaged 9.4 points and 4.8 assists per game. The Indiana native is projected by Draft Express to be selected with the No. 18 overall selection.

He would follow John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Derrick Rose, and Brandon Knight as one-and-done point guards coming out of John Calipari-coached programs.

The Wildcats will be looking to replace Teague with NC State transfer Ryan Harrow next season.

And Kentucky may not be done losing players.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Doron Lamb are also expected by many to declare for the draft. Earlier in the season, though, when asked about leaving for the draft, Kidd-Gilchrist expressed a desire to graduate from Kentucky, playing all four years.

Perhaps his opinion has changed since then.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Is Calipari's latest No. 1 class among best ever?

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Anthony Davis’ family didn’t sue the Chicago Sun-Times this week, but it still made news when Davis became the third Top 10 recruit from the class of 2011 to commit to Kentucky.

Yes, the third Top 10 recruit. He joins Michael Gilchrist (rated No. 1) and Marquis Teague (No. 5) to give Wildcats coach John Calipari another – in all likelihood – top-rated class. Three classes, three recruiting hauls?

That’s unprecedented. And a little nuts.

Will it be more newsworthy when Calipari doesn’t reel in the top class? And will the 2011 class (with three Top 10 prospects) rank among the best recruiting hauls ever?

At least three national writers say no. Not because there’s a lack of top-level talent, but because there’s no true game-breaker among the group. As Mike DeCourcy says, there’s no Greg Oden like Ohio State’s 2006 group and no Chris Webber like 1991 Michigan.

Maybe that’s all true. Can’t say guys like DeCourcy, Gary Parrish or Jeff Goodman don’t know what they’re doing. They’ve been watching hoops for years and have been watching these 2011 guys all summer.

But is there a chance Gilchrist, Teague or Davis becomes a true elite talent? I wouldn’t rule it out. Then arguing about the greatest recruiting class of all time will be even more nebulous (and fun!).

UPDATE: The guys over at Rush the Court did an excellent comparison with Duke’s 1997-99 classes.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.