Terrence Jones will have plenty to cheer about this year.
There are many behemoths this year in the realm of college basketball. Ohio State, North Carolina, Connecticut, and a plethora of other teams bring back elite talent in what should be one of the best years for college basketball.
In a year that should never house a dull moment, tragedy will strike. Some teams will not live up to lofty expectations. Others will fall prey to untimely injuries, but most will simply fail to reach their goal: to claim the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship trophy as their own.
Many obstacles face every prestigious basketball program in the nation. Tough nonconference schedules litter the college basketball landscape, from early tournaments to away games in hostile environments, the age of starting a season against cupcakes is over.
It will be the team that overcomes each and every hurdle they face that will win the NCAA Championship. Here are five reasons why it will be the Kentucky Wildcats.
Note: This article is overflowing with bias toward Kentucky. Be prepared.
Yeah, yeah, Kentucky fans are the hardest to please in the nation. But they know good basketball. Rupp Arena has seen great basketball teams and average basketball teams, all in the last five years. And this year, the buzz is leaning more toward "great."
From pre-game pyrotechnics to the "Celebrity Y" at halftime and the singing of "My Old Kentucky Home" after a win, Rupp Arena is an atmosphere unlike any other.
This atmosphere will spark any lackadaisical offense or weary defense. Opposing players have a hard time hearing their coaches, and that wears on a team. No team will enter Lexington expecting an easy win. And they will be hard-pressed to find one.
Sure, Kentucky could play cupcakes each week heading into conference play. But where's the fun in that?
Kentucky will play Kansas, St. John's, North Carolina, Indiana and Louisville all before its first conference game (don't look now, but the SEC is looking pretty good as well). Expectations are high, but the chances of winning every one of these games are slim. Although you shouldn't expect it, it would not be surprising to see Kentucky undefeated on New Year's Day.
Each game will prove something new to this squad. Losses will provide character, and wins will build confidence. With four freshmen in the fold, any opportunity to learn should be respected and taken advantage of.
Coach John Calipari knows how to teach, and a tough schedule will provide an opulence of opportunity for Calipari to instruct his team.
A John Calipari basketball team without young talent does not exist. But this team is special. Anthony Davis leads the best Calipari class since, well, 2009. Davis joins Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague and Kyle Wiltjer in Lexington in a healthy influx of talent.
But any program can recruit. It is how these recruits fit into the dribble-drive offense that will allow this team to go all the way.
Davis provides a tall, lanky center that can retrieve any alley-oop. He needs to get more physical on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, but his basketball skills are NBA ready. Teague will anchor the backcourt alongside Doron Lamb, and Kidd-Gilchrist and Wiltjer complement each other in the frontcourt.
Darius Miller has what it takes to be elite. He has been a staple of the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team for three years, and last year he saw his best statistical season yet, even though he was overshadowed by freshman Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones. His poise in the SEC Tournament led him to be named the tournament MVP, and much of the same should be expected this year.
Miller is not the only Wildcat that came back for another Final Four run. Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb also returned for another year, even though both would be valued NBA draft picks. Lamb solidified a shaky three-point shooting team last year, and Jones is a potential First-Team All-American.
All three of these players will give Kentucky the leadership needed to win a national championship.
Architect of the dribble-drive motion offense. The best recruiting coach in the nation. John Calipari has taken Kentucky to its first Final Four since 1998, and this team has the potential to go further. Calipari has been there, and he has done that—except for winning a national championship.
Sure, that means something. It means there is a void in Calipari. He needs a national championship, one without controversy and one that will never be vacated. No city wants it more than Lexington, and no coach wants it more than John Calipari.
He was 2.1 seconds away from winning one at Memphis. This year, he will make sure his team takes advantage of every chance it gets—ensuring a Mario Chalmers' three-pointer never happens again.