Will the NCAA free Enes? We've only heard the prosecution's side so far. The New York Times reported that a pro team in his native Turkey gave Enes Kanter and his family between $100,000 and $150,000 in benefits over a three-year period. That included a monthly salary of $6,500 in his final season. The team, Fenerbahce Ulker, says it gave the NCAA banking and housing records to substantiate those claims, The Times reported. We also know more than one prep school coach shied away from Kanter last year because he was believed to be a pro. For the defense, UK Coach John Calipari and Kanter's father have noted the pro team has selfish reasons for wanting Kanter to return or play in Europe. UK defenders have likened playing for a pro team in Turkey to attending a prep school. Calipari noted the high cost of living in Istanbul. Based on what we know, UK can only hope Kanter will be a one-and-done rather than "a done" before the season starts.
Will Brandon Knight make UK fans forget John Wall? Buzzer-beating shots to win games. Breathtaking drives to the basket. First UK player ever selected first overall in the NBA Draft. The John Wall dance. Wall can be secure in the knowledge of his place as a UK basketball icon. To his credit, Knight does not seem interested in matching or surpassing Wall's impact. During the exhibition series in Canada, Knight got credit for 25 assists while committing only five turnovers. When the occasional moment of UK needing a basket arose, he drove purposefully to a score or hit a pull-up jumper. Otherwise, he simply played effectively and efficiently. Knight may not be as good as Wall, but who is in college basketball?
Are there freshmen like Wall and DeMarcus Cousins every recruiting year? Is this year's freshmen class better than last year's? Since freshmen became eligible in 1972-73, there had never been freshmen teammates named first-team All-Americans by The Associated Press until Wall and Cousins did it last season. So there is no other precedent on which to build expectations of lightning striking UK basketball twice, let alone twice in two years. Speaking of unprecedented, Kentucky made history in this year's NBA Draft by having five first-round picks. Of course, freshmen made up four-fifths of that group. That's a standard Calipari has repeatedly tried to persuade fans not to expect. That might never happen again, certainly not until 2012, when freshmen Michael Gilchrist, Marquis Teague, Anthony Davis and Kyle Wiltjer are draft-eligible.
Can a freshmen-oriented team win it all? Since freshmen became eligible in 1972-73, few have played key roles on national championship teams. Michael Jordan with North Carolina in 1982. Pervis Ellison with Louisville in 1986. Carmelo Anthony of Syracuse in 2003. These make up the exception rather than the rule. In the last 10 years, when freshmen became prominent in college basketball, only 10 averaged more than 15 minutes a game for a championship team. Only three started: Josh Boone for UConn in 2004, and Gerry McNamara and Anthony for Syracuse in 2003. Of the eight freshmen who have been named first-team All-Americans by The Associated Press, only Greg Oden played in a Final Four.
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Which of last season's players will be missed most? Knight gives UK a top 10 national recruit to step in for Wall. In the last 30 years, has UK had a freshman big man make the kind of impact Cousins made? Kanter and/or Eloy Vargas can try. Doron Lamb seems like a suitable replacement for Eric Bledsoe. But who will be a steady veteran leader on and off the court like Patrick Patterson? Besides graduating in three years, Patterson was lauded by Calipari as a player who could be counted on to give a full effort every day. Calipari tabs DeAndre Liggins as this season's version of Patterson. It's no easy role to fill.
Who will be the one-and-done players? This time a year ago, only Wall seemed a certain one-and-done player. Since high school, he was projected — correctly — as the first pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. Yet when asked during the season about entering the draft, he followed the standard script of saying (wink, wink) he wasn't thinking of that. Calipari noted that he did not envision Cousins (too immature) or Daniel Orton (returning from knee surgery) or Bledsoe (UK's point guard in 2010-11) as one-and-done players. So it's hard to be certain. The Web sites DraftExpress.com and NBADraft.net project Kanter as a lottery pick. The latter also sees Knight and Terrence Jones as first-round picks. We know that any player who puts himself in the one-and-done conversation will be encouraged to cash in.
Will UK fans learn to love the dribble-drive offense? Given the type of highly rated talent being recruited by Calipari, UK fans would embrace a four-corners offense. Like fans everywhere, the Big Blue Nation first wants superior players. Then there's time to be picky about style of play. Besides the attacking dribble-drive being pleasing to the eye, a faster pace allows UK's talent a greater opportunity to impose its will on the opposition. Calipari went with dribble-drive lite last season given a roster blessed with low-post anchors. Now he's talking about using some pick-and-roll, which last season he said thwarted the drives that ignite the dribble-drive. If nothing else, the man is flexible.
How well-timed was UK's ticket price increase, er, adjustment? UK officials sounded handcuffed by earlier declarations that a ticket price increase, er, adjustment would not be considered before this year. What? You couldn't have waited until the 2011-12 season when Louisville and North Carolina come to Rupp Arena? This season's non-conference home schedule — dubbed "Rupp's Runts" by the crack Herald-Leader headline-writing staff — makes it more difficult to swallow $7 more per ticket. Many fans in the first four rows voiced outrage that the K Fund donation required to buy tickets will go from $1,350 to $5,000 per ticket. After complaining, all said they would renew their tickets. If it helps any, it's merely a price adjustment, not an increase.
What games should be eagerly anticipated? Do we need to say the UK-U of L game? Already a natural and heated rivalry, it gets extra intensity given the perception of an almost-toxic relationship between Calipari and Rick Pitino. Ditto for Kentucky-Tennessee and Calipari-Bruce Pearl. Kentucky-North Carolina is another obvious must-see TV event. Any game in Maui will be eagerly anticipated because, well, it's Maui. Believing he got hosed in two heartbreakers last season, Mississippi State Coach Rick Stansbury's visit to Rupp Arena figures to be fun. Any opponent from the SEC East other than South Carolina — look out for Georgia — will make for a key game.
How will Darius Miller adjust from a supporting role to center stage? During the question-and-answer session after his talk at the annual Tip-Off Dinner in Louisville, Calipari made a surprising comment. When thinking of possible leaders, he said that Miller was quiet. "He doesn't have the eye of the tiger," the UK coach said. Miller says he has plenty of intensity. He simply doesn't choose to show it. To maximize what Miller can provide, Calipari spoke of moving him from the wing to the top of the key in the dribble-drive offense. In the exhibition series in Canada, Miller hit several shots as a trailer. Those looking for reassurance can note that when called on in high school, Miller led Mason County to a state championship and won Kentucky's Mr. Basketball award in 2008.
Are there enough shooters to handle another 1-3-1 defense? One thing's for sure: that question will be answered by next spring. During a women's clinic in October, Calipari said he expected many opponents to copy the 1-3-1 zone West Virginia used to befuddle Kentucky in the 2010 East Region finals. Twenty straight missed three-point shots sent UK into a panic. Returning players Miller, Liggins, Jon Hood and Josh Harrellson shot a respectable 33.7 percent from three-point range last season. UK's overall 33.1-percent accuracy ranked 209th nationally. None of the highly regarded freshmen came billed as a dead-eye shooter. Hence the 1-3-1, 1-2-2 and 2-1-2 zones to come this season.
(Home games in capital letters; all times Eastern)
Date Opponent Time TV
Nov. 1 a-PIKEVILLE
Nov. 5 a-DILLARD
Nov. 12 EAST TENNESSEE ST. 7 p.m. FS South*
Nov. 19 b-Portland 10:30 p.m. ESPNU
Nov. 22 c-Oklahoma 5:30 p.m. ESPN2
Nov. 23 c-Virginia/Washington4:30/9:30 p.m.ESPN/ESPN2
Nov. 24 c-Maui Invitational TBA ESPN**
Nov. 30 BOSTON 7 p.m. FS South*
Dec. 4 at North Carolina 12:30 p.m. CBS-27
Dec. 8 d-Notre Dame 9:30 p.m. ESPN
Dec. 11 INDIANA 5:15 p.m. ESPN
Dec. 18 MISS. VALLEY ST. 8 p.m. CSS***
Dec. 22 WINTHROP 1 p.m. FS South*
Dec. 28 COPPIN ST. 7 p.m. FS South
Dec. 31 at Louisville Noon CBS-27
Jan. 3 PENN 7 p.m. ESPNU
Jan. 8 at Georgia 4 p.m. SEC Network
Jan. 11 AUBURN 7 p.m. ESPNU
Jan. 15 LSU 4 p.m. SEC Network
Jan. 18 at Alabama 9 p.m. ESPN
Jan. 22 at South Carolina 6 p.m. ESPN
Jan. 29 GEORGIA 4 p.m. ESPN
Feb. 1 at Mississippi 7 p.m. ESPNU
Feb. 5 at Florida 9 p.m. ESPN
Feb. 8 TENNESSEE 9 p.m. ESPN
Feb. 12 at Vanderbilt 1 p.m. CBS-27
Feb. 15 MISSISSIPPI STATE 7 p.m. ESPN
Feb. 19 SOUTH CAROLINA 4 p.m. SEC Network
Feb. 23 at Arkansas 8 p.m. SEC Network
Feb. 26 FLORIDA 4 p.m. CBS-27
Mar. 1 VANDERBILT 9 p.m. ESPN
Mar. 6 at Tennessee Noon CBS-27
Mar. 10-13e-SEC Tournament TBA ABC-36
a-exhibition; b-at Rose Garden, Portland, Ore.; c-Maui Invitational (Lahaina Civic Center, Maui, Hawaii); d-SEC/Big East Invitational (Freedom Hall, Louisville); e-at Atlanta (Georgia Dome).
*-Will also be shown on a delayed basis on the Big Blue Sports Network; **-will be shown on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU; ***-will be shown on Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast