It's shaping up to be a big year of basketball in Kentuckiana: Indiana, Kentucky and Louisville will be in the top national three of the Athlon Sports 2012-13 College Basketball annual when it hits newsstands in late September.
None of these teams is without its flaws, whether it's youth, experience or a deficiency somewhere on the court. We asked our members of our editorial staff for their thoughts on what might hold these teams back from achieving their goals.
The Athlon Sports' top three includes Indiana, Kentucky and Louisville. What is the biggest Achilles' heel for any of these three teams to reach the Final Four?
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
This is the easy answer, but I believe it's the inexperience at Kentucky. In each of his three previous seasons at Kentucky, John Calipari has stocked his roster with freshmen who were prepared to make significant contributions. This year's class is as highly regarded as the other three, but we just won't know how good this crop is until we see them in action. We are told that Nerlens Noel might even be a better shot-blocker than Anthony Davis, but will he be able to contribute as much on the offensive end and will he be able to stay out of foul trouble like Davis? Archie Goodwin appears to be a ready-made 2-guard, but can he replace the intangibles that guys like Darius Miller and Doron Lamb brought to the team. Calipari has raved about forward Alex Poythress, but the freshman from Tennessee must demonstrate that he can get the job done on a consistent basis. The Wildcats do have experience at the point in sophomore Ryan Harrow, but the transfer from NC State must prove that he can handle the demands Calipari places on his lead guard. Then there is the issue of chemistry: Can this group show the cohesiveness that is needed to win a title? Last year's Kentucky did. Some have said Cal's first UK team didn't. This is something that must evolve as the season progresses.
Once again, John Calipari has reloaded at Kentucky with an incoming recruiting class of five-star, blue-chip NBA prospects. That's nothing new. Anyone who doubts whether or not Coach Cal will succeed with his new group is either a Calipari hater or someone who hasn't been watching the mad scientist work his magic with team chemistry. In his three seasons at UK, Calipari has a national championship, another trip to the Final Four and a "disappointing" Elite Eight run with what were essentially three different rosters. But this year, Cal's top recruit (shockingly, the No. 1-ranked player in the nation), Nerlens Noel, has been hounded by the NCAA regarding his eligibility. If the 6'10" shot-blocker with the high-top fade is unable to play, the Wildcats would take a significant step backwards defensively and might even slide out of Final Four contention.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Perhaps the biggest barrier for any of these three teams is the streakiness at Louisville. It’s easy to over-inflate success in the NCAA Tournament, and perhaps we’re doing this with the Cardinals. Before the Big East Tournament, Louisville was 22-9 overall and 10-8 in the conference. This was a team that lost 90-59 at Providence, that went to overtime with DePaul. Louisville returns a ton of talent, including Peyton Siva, who was a changed point guard in the postseason. The frontcourt should be one of the best in the league. But this was also one of the worst 3-point shooting teams Rick Pitino has had. And for whatever reason, the Cardinals have struggled to avoid injuries the last two years. That’s a major concern for Louisville in 2012-13. And since no one else has mentioned this yet, I’ll throw Indiana’s road record as a potential concern: The Hoosiers were 3-6 on the road in the Big Ten last season.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
Kentucky’s yearly inexperience is probably the easiest answer here, but the Wildcats will have the best talent in the nation as long as John Calipari is in Lexington and World Wide Wes is part of the famous ‘Blue Mist.’ I’m more concerned with Louisville’s ability to score points against a tough matchup in the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight. Rick Pitino’s bunch had an amazing offensive run to beat Florida in last year’s regional final, but his Cardinals may not be able to repeat that feat in a difficult one-game setting. Over the course of the season, Pitino’s stifling defense will be enough to give Louisville a great shot at taking the Big East and winning 30 games once again. But to get back to the Final Four, the Cardinals will need to find more offense while having to replace top 3-point shooters Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith.
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