College Basketball Team Reports: Kentucky Wildcats
The Dribble Drive Motion is an offense and a brand—one that has been synonymous with coach John Calipari since his 2007--08 Memphis team dribble-drove its way to the national title game. But his offenses in Lexington have gone in different directions. "It's not the best way for every team to play," Calipari says. The 2009--10 Wildcats thrived in transition and by feeding DeMarcus Cousins in the post, and subsequent squads have gone heavy on perimeter handoffs. The Dribble Drive has only accounted for 20-to-50% of Kentucky's attack in any given season.
This could be the year the Cats rely mostly on Dribble Drive, and not just because five-star recruit Andrew Harrison is taking over at point guard. The fab freshmen on the perimeter are equally important: Andrew's twin brother, Aaron, has a similar ability to beat defenders off the bounce; small forward James Young has been called "maybe the fastest player in college basketball" by an NBA scout; and Julius Randle has exceptional slashing and passing skills for a 6' 9" forward. ("His instincts to get rid of the ball at the right time, in the right place, are ridiculous," Calipari says.) And the likely starting center, Willie Cauley-Stein, is an ideal receiver for the weakside lobs that open up when opposing bigs have to help on drivers.
The Wildcats are also likely to ramp up their relationship with the three-pointer. Last season they ranked 290th in percentage of points coming from beyond the arc, but with Young, Randle, Aaron Harrison and sophomore Alex Poythress all threats from deep, there will be ample kick-out opportunities. A Dribble Drive lineup with strong shooters will stretch defenses, open driving lanes and create breakdowns galore—and could very well yield not just the country's most efficient offense but another national championship as well.
They aren't easing in, playing No. 2 Michigan State in the Champions Classic Nov. 12, facing Baylor at Cowboys Stadium Dec. 6 and North Carolina in Chapel Hill Dec. 14. And in a season where the 'Cats and Louisville are similarly powerful, having home court in the Dec. 28 rivalry game is huge.
Player to Watch: Alex Poythress
A somewhat-forgotten man in UK's rotation after the arrival of the Greatest Recruiting Class of All-Time, Poythress could serve as an X-Factor in a national title run. He defensive rebounds as well as the much bigger Willie Cauley-Stein, shot 60.7 percent from inside the arc last season, and is capable of hitting the occasional three. He and James Young give Calipari two distinctly different options at the small-forward slot.
Telling Number: 129th
The Wildcats' rank in defensive efficiency last season, ensuring their demise. Calipari's 2012 title team ranked eighth, and the addition of the tenacious Julius Randle and Aaron and Andrew Harrison should ensure a better D.
Q&A with Head Coach John Calipari
SI.com: Does this team have a rel chance of going 40-0?
Calipari: I've had four teams that have had a chance to [go undefeated], The '95-96 team [at UMass], the 2008 team [at Memphis], the 2010 team with John Wall, the 2012 team. Before I retired, I'd like to have a team that goes undefeated. I don't start the season with that goal. I'm just saying, I'd like to have it happen. Which means you have to win a whole lot of games in a row right up front -- and [this year] we're playing Michigan State, Louisville, North Carolina and Florida, twice. You're talking about a lot of top teams.
SI.com What does Julius Randle bring to this team, behind the scenes?
Calipari: He has spirit -- it's what Michael Kiss-Gilchrist had -- that comes in and elevates practice, and he doesn't care what it looks like. A lot of guys are afraid that they're going to embarrass their teammates. I have to stop practice and say [to other guys], Don't you feel bad that [Julius is] going that hard and you're choosing not to?