Kentucky Basketball: Wildcats Will Be Elite Once Again Next Year
John Calipari doesn't rebuild, he reloads.
After what can only be termed a disappointment, the Kentucky Wildcats missed out on the NCAA tournament. When Nerlens Noel went down, so too did the Wildcats' hopes of making the Big Dance.
Kentucky finished the season 21-11 and ended year with a dispiriting 16-point loss at the hands of the Vanderbilt Commodores in the SEC tournament.
It's not going to do any good arguing where this team could have gone with a healthy Noel. Instead, Kentucky fans should be looking to the future.
As is customary with any Wildcats squad lately, the roster will be gutted by the NBA draft. Noel will be gone—there's virtually no doubt about that. After him will probably be Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin and Wallace Cauley-Stein. That's 44.2 of Kentucky's 73.1 points per game walking out the door. Then there's the 9.4 points a game Kentucky loses with the graduating Julius Mays.
Normally a loss like that would cripple a team. In the Wildcats' case, they simply bring in the next crop of talented freshman. Like clockwork, Calipari has managed to bring in what is arguably the best freshman class in the country for next season.
Can Kentucky win a national title next season?
Andrew and Aaron Harrison are the fourth- and fifth-best prospects, respectively, in the country according to 247Sports. Andrew Harrison is the creator and slasher and is ranked as the best point guard in the country. His brother, Aaron, is the best shooting guard and is a much better shooter. Together, they can make a very complementary backcourt.
The trio of James Young, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee are all ranked in the top 15 overall as well. Young is another perimeter scorer, so the Wildcats look to have no problem scoring next year. Johnson and Lee provide the much-needed post play to make this a complete class in terms of what the players bring to the court.
It's shaping up to be an absolutely dominating group and maybe one of the best recruiting classes in the history of college basketball.
Relying on so much youth would normally be a recipe for disaster. Calipari, on the other hand, has demonstrated an ability to take young players and get the most out of them for a season and ship them off to the NBA.
The national championship team of 2011-12 had an almost transcendent talent in Anthony Davis, but that was still a very inexperienced team.
After a season in which his team missed the tournament altogether, you can bet that a motivator like Calipari will be drilling that failure into next year's squad, even if few of the players were actually on the team.
The detractors can talk all they want about how coaches like Calipari are ruining the college game and whatever other negative things are associated with him and the Kentucky program. That just fuels the players even more to stick it to their critics.
If there's one team primed to turn around next year after missing out on the NCAA tournament, it's the Wildcats.
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