8. Kentucky Wildcats (24-10, 12-6 SEC)-The Wildcats boast as much future NBA talent on their roster as any team in America. Their starting lineup consists of five McDonald’s All-Americans, and there are three or four on the bench, too. But this Kentucky team has struggled with consistency at times this season. As coach John Calipari seems to say over and over, “That’s what young teams do.”
6-9 forward Julius Randle has lived up to his advanced billing. He is one of the few players in the country who averages a double-double, putting up 15 points and 10 boards per game. He is a beast inside, though Kansas State figures to have the bigs to at least slow him down.
Slashing guard James Young (14.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg) has been solid this season, shooting 34% from the three-point line. He’s a threat to get hot and take over a game. Twin guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison have been inconsistent, but both average in double figures in scoring.
Kentucky is one of the best rebounding teams in the country, ranking 5th nationally in boards per game at 41.3. The ‘Cats have struggled down the stretch, losing games to Arkansas and South Carolina, and falling three times to top-ranked Florida in the span of a month.
5th Rebounds per Game (41.3)
9th Blocks per Game (6.2)
115th Field Goal Percentage (.454)
9. Kansas State Wildcats (20-12, 10-8 Big 12)-Kentucky isn’t the only team with fabulous freshmen. K-State guard Marcus Foster came out of nowhere to lead the team in scoring, putting up 15.6 points and 2.5 assists per game. Foster is a terrific young player, and though he can be inconsistent, has incredible potential. He went for 29 in the Wildcats’ regular season finale against Baylor and put up 34 in a win over Texas earlier this season.
Slowing Foster should be Kentucky’s No. 1 priority, but there are plenty of other weapons to deal with, too. 6-7 junior forward Thomas Gipson averages 11.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. He’ll match up well with Randle on the inside.
6-7 guard Shane Southwell (9.8 ppg) is another capable scorer and solid defender. Senior guard Will Spradling shoots the three at 34%, and you’ve got to get a hand in his face at all times.
Though they have 12 losses, Kansas State beat everyone in the Big 12 this season except Baylor.
110th Rebounds per Game (36.0)
27th Assists per Game (15.5)