Louisville won this year’s National Championship. Now let’s look at the 2013-2014 season.
Even as a die-hard fan of college basketball, I will be the first to admit that I do not have a favorite team. I’m from New Jersey and Rutgers basketball hasn’t been very good, so the hometown team favoritism is out the window. I just never got fully behind one team. There are certain teams I root for, but none that I can call my own like I can in the NFL, NBA, or MLB (Giants, Nets, Yankees). With that being said, I have never liked the University of Kentucky. I do not have a good reason to why I don’t like the school, I just don’t. However, if I had to pick an early favorite to win next season’s NCAA title, it’d have to be the Wildcats.
Next year’s Kentucky team will have more talent on it than any team I can remember. Next year, Kentucky’s 8th and 9th men could be the top players on several power six conference teams. It is ridiculous. Earlier in the week, John Calipari announced through Twitter that Alex Poythress will return for his sohpomore season. This announcement comes after sophomore Kyle Wiltjer and fellow freshman Willie Cauley-Stein announced that they were returning to Lexington as well. So right there, that’s a lot of talent coming back. Poythress and Wiltjer are former high school McDonald’s All-Americans, and Cauley-Stein was considered a potential lottery pick if he decided to enter his name in this year’s NBA Draft (so was Poythress).
A collegiate starting lineup containing two potential lottery picks and two former high school All Americans should be scary enough. But think about this for a minute: these three players will most likely be coming off the bench next year for John Calipari. Yeah, I just said that. Kentucky is going to be so talented next season that at least two of these three players, and potentially all three, will be forced to come off the bench next season due to Kentucky’s incoming recruiting class.
Let’s go over the recruits that have already committed to Kentucky. As of April 3rd, four of the top ten recruits in the country have already committed to Kentucky. Julius Randle, a 6’9” power forward from Texas is the #3 overall prospect in the country, and the #1 rated power forward. Aaron Harrison, the 6’5” point guard from Texas is the #5 overall prospect in the country, and the #1 rated point guard in the country. James Young, the 6’6” small forward from Michigan, is the 6th overall prospect in the country and the #3 rated small forward in the country. And finally, Andrew Harrison, Aaron’s twin brother, is the #7 overall player in the country, and the #1 rated shooting guard.
Ok, so Kentucky got four of the top ten recruits in the county, that’s amazing, but that’s it, right? Wrong.
Dakari Johnson, the 6’11” center from Brooklyn, is the #11 overall prospect in the country, and the #1 rated center in the class. Marcus Lee, the 6’9” power forward from California, is the #18 overall prospect in the country, and the #9 rated power forward.
That is absurd. Six of the top twenty players in the country are headed to Lexington next season to team up with Poythress, Wiltjer, and Cauley-Stein.
There is only one McDonald’s All American headed to a Big 10 school next year (Wayne Selden). There are six McDonald’s All Americans headed to Kentucky.
Also, the #1 overall player in the class, Andrew Wiggins, has Kentucky as one of the four schools he is still considering. If he commits to the Wildcats, it’s a wrap. If you have any doubts that Wiggins will be a bust, just watch his senior year mixtape. Not a chance…
That means that if Wiggins commits, Kentucky will have six guaranteed, and nine potential first round picks in the 2014 NBA draft (Guaranteed: Wiggins, Randle, both Harrison twins, Young, Poythress. Potential: Cauley-Stein, Johnson, Lee). Just think about that. Kentucky will pretty much have the youngest NBA team in the country. At least nine of these guys will go on to play at the next level. Find three more scrubs to throw on this team, and you have a legit NBA roster. It’s crazy.
I’m writing this assuming that Nerlens Noel leaves for the NBA. He is the potential number one overall pick in the upcoming NBA draft, so all indications point to him leaving. If he returns, that’s just more talent added to the table.
Going into this season, I said (and I have video proof) that Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin were overrated. Everyone laughed at me, but I had seen them play on TV and wasn’t impressed. I could tell they were both talented, but weren’t ready to dominate the college game like Anthony Davis and MKG did. However, I have seen all of Kentucky’s newest recruits play, and all I can say is WOW. These guys are good. Randle is a beast down low and has an above average jump shot for a big. The Harrison twins are unreal. Both are big physical guards who can score from anywhere on the court. Young has a smooth game with unlimited range. Johnson is a classic, old fashioned, back to the basket type of big with great size, and don’t get me started on Andrew Wiggins. You guys watched the mixtape, I feel like I don’t need to say much more. If Lee is anywhere near as good as these guys, and you’d have to imagine he is, then the rest of the NCAA should start worrying right about……now.
I’m not crowning the Wildcat’s champions yet, but they definitely have a leg up on the rest of the field. As we saw this year, talent alone cannot win. Kentucky’s recruiting class last year (Noel, Poythress, Goodwin, Cauley-Stein) was supposed to step right in and produce like Anthony Davis’ and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s team did. Well that didn’t happen and Kentucky got bounced in the first round of the NIT by Robert Morris. Who??? Robert Morris…exactly.
John Calipari is as good as anybody when it comes to meshing together big egos and talent. The incoming freshman will see this year’s team’s failure as a learning block that they will have to leave their egos at the door and learn to play together as a team. If these players can do that, the ceiling for this team is as high as the Eiffel Tower. Even if Calipari cannot find a way to mesh all of these egos together, you’d have to imagine that the pure talent alone of this squad would be enough to beat Robert Morris….
Archie Goodwin announced that he will enter the NBA draft, and that’s a good thing for Kentucky. He was a ball hog and ruined team chemistry, so that’s another plus for this team.
Go watch these kids mixtapes. They’re beyond impressive. Kentucky unintentionally used this season as a rebuilding year, and boy did they rebuild. Kentucky should be as good, if not better than they were in 2012 when they won the National Championship.
Make sure to follow me on Twitter @mlukes14