College / Mar 25, 2013 / 2:30 pm

Kentucky Is Gearing Up To Destroy Everybody Next Season

Alex Poythress

Alex Poythress. (photo. UK Athletics/Chet White)

College basketball will always be preluded with the idea that the underdog can fight for another day. It precipitates the rise of an unknown team from small-town, America and gives them a chance at momentary grace with the upset of a legend.

This year, that small name team was Robert Morris University. The legend: last year’s champion Kentucky Wildcats.

The Wildcats’ 2012-13 season sunk to an all-time low after they were looked over by the NCAA committee for a chance to defend their title in the NCAA Tournament, and subsequently were upset by Robert Morris in the opening round of the NIT. Despite a horrible finish and one of the worst moments in John Calipari‘s career, this is my guarantee the Wildcats will be back and better than ever next year.

Outside of Nerlens Noel, a consensus top-five pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, all of their starters from this season could be returning. With a star-studded cast that includes Alex Poythress, Ryan Harrow, Archie Goodwin and Willie Cauley-Stein there shouldn’t be a team in the conference that can top the club. But for Kentucky Wildcat fans it gets even better.

Even though all of the aforementioned players have been leaning towards entering the NBA Draft, Goodwin’s initial comments following the loss to Robert Morris makes many think otherwise. The freshmen don’t want their careers in college basketball to end on such an embarrassing note. They want to come back and play for a championship.

The Wildcats could also be bringing in one of the best recruiting classes in college basketball’s history. Top recruit Julius Randle (No. 3 in ESPN 100) recently committed to “Big Blue Nation.” Next year’s phenomenal freshman will join the Harrison twins (Andrew and Aaron), two of the country’s best guards, a more than skilled swingman in James Young, and one of the best overall center prospects in Dakari Johnson. This could go down as one of the greatest recruiting classes, and could, in turn, develop one of the greatest college teams in the modern era.

Throw in the possibility of adding another Class of 2013 prospect or two, and Kentucky could have as many as 11 or 12 former five-star recruits on its roster. This would not only overload the team in talent but it would make an unbeatable squad, a pseudo-Monstars-esque Space Jam-like club that could only be imagined in the deep annals of a Stephen King novel. The Wildcats would be scary. But if not controlled properly, they could easily have a repeat season.

There also has to be a separation of playing time, something Calipari really hasn’t dealt with at Kentucky. When you have a team where almost every player has the potential to become a future NBA All-Star, certain characteristics jump in the way of every winning effort. The chemistry between players will be a key turning point if Kentucky plans on making a long run next March.

That future could produce numerous complaints. Calipari can’t promise them all 25-30 minutes per game. But on the other side of things, this could lead to a high level of competition in preseason to fight for spots, and would be a good indicator of the strength and longevity of Calipari’s team. One thing’s for sure, next year’s squad will be a tremendous upgrade from this year’s unmotivated squad of freshmen that seemed unwilling at times to play for the defending champion coaching staff.

Alex Kline, who runs the Recruit Scoop on Rivals.com, actually doesn’t see this year’s freshmen coming back.

“I don’t see them coming back at all,” Kline says. “Based on that, I think Kentucky is on course to win a national championship in 2014 with the talent and depth they have. Depth is the key word here. They need depth in case of injury this year. Had Nerlens Noel stayed healthy, Kentucky likely makes the tournament and becomes a threat to everyone.

“So although Johnson and (Marcus) Lee will be in the post; Young and Randle will have on the perimeter; and the Harrison twins will have at the guard position, I feel as if their backups will be the key to each game. If injury or foul trouble happens, it could hurt this team just as it could hurt any team. They have the talent, and I’m sure they will mesh well after a while, but no one can avoid the unavoidable.”

Still, no matter what happens with this year’s freshmen, it will be an intriguing season watching the “Big Blue Nation.” Behind one of the strongest classes to ever come through college basketball, it is highly unlikely that Kentucky isn’t cutting down the nets this time next year. The only thing more improbable than Kentucky not getting to the Final Four is the Sixers making the playoffs this year. Fans can only dream.

Should this year’s freshmen leave for the NBA or stay for next year?

Follow Tyler on Twitter at @RealTylerTynes.

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  • Kpl

    Should the uk freshman leave for the nba? Are you serious? These kids would get eaten alive in the nba, the nba is for men not boys. There is a chance that the incoming freshman will take their starting position. They are not good enough to play in the nba, they couldn’t even make the NCAA tournament!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jason-Morris/1751161277 Jason Morris

    Its a very weak draft class and those ‘kids’ are poised to go in the top 20. Something that might not be the case in next years ‘very strong’ nba draft class. I think they figure that out, along with the fact they may not get as much playing time next year so it could be 3 more years before their draft stock is as high as it is right now.

  • Michael McIntosh

    we talkin bout the same NBA where night after night, teams lay down for lebron so he can get his next milestone? is this the same league where john wall gets tossed in a game for challenging a klay thompson cheap shot? there seems to be an awful lot of ‘protection’ in the league, i think these kids will be fine.

  • Kpl

    Your right because what you just said has everything to do with making it in the nba. Who is talking about protection? I’m talking about playing a game with professional athletes, not college kids. They don’t have the skill set to compete in the nba, they couldn’t even compete in college. If incoming freshman have the chance to take your starting position, no matter how good they are suppose to be, then do you think they can make it in the nba? Seriously? The incoming freshman are no better than anybody in the nba or the d-league. Come on people did you even watch them play this year.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=12905786 Shawn Adams

    The problem with that argument is that the NBA draft doesn’t work that way. In any draft only the top handful of elite players are ready to step on the court today. And that’s only on the worst teams. It’s not like the NBA says “Ok, these 7 guys are ready so we’ll take them. The rest of you try again next year.” It’s a business decision. If your stock is only going to drop because new guys will come in and outshine you… then you gotta get what you can while you can or you’re never going to get paid. That’s why I think they’ll go. Not because they’re good enough to go, but because they don’t have any other choice. The draft class is weak, grab what you can ’cause there are 15 new guys that are better than you in it next year. The idea that you can only go to the draft if you’re good enough to play in the NBA today is just not reality.

  • Kpl

    No the problem with your argument is, your saying their draft stock is as high as it will ever be right now. Your joking right? Your saying they won’t benefit themselves by staying in college and getting a lot better. Those freshman can be the best players in college basketball, they have the talent to. Just because you get projected as a draft pick doesn’t mean you will make a team, they will get tossed around the d-league and might not even make a d-league team. You obviously don’t know anything about basketball, because yes there draft stock can be better if they stay in college and get better. Everyone who knows anything about basketball is saying they are not ready and to stay in school. If they are good enough after another year or two then there will still be nba teams who will draft them, don’t be an idiot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=12905786 Shawn Adams

    Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones came back. And their stock went down. And they made less that they would have. And now they’re bouncing around the d-league, like you say. Coming back and winning a title didn’t help them. That’s all I’m saying. I’m not saying it’s a good way to do things. It’s just how it’s going right now. It’s easy to say they should stay and get better. And you’re absolutely right. The question is will they take some money now or stay in college and risk losing money if it doesn’t pay off. Good enough has not much to do with it. It’s how much can you get paid and when.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.callihan1 Chris Callihan

    I agree with you, but to say he knows nothing about basketball is just not true. I could say you know nothing about grammar. Make your argument, but don’t belittle…which sadly I see a lot more of on here than anything

  • Sean Sweeney

    It’s not really about whether they can make it or not because no one knows right now how they will develop. More about money/the money they’d be risking. They will almost assuredly become better if they stay and compete w/ better players on a better team in a college environment, maturing as they go along. But that would more than likely hurt their draft stock, lose them money, and there’s no guaranteeing that coming back as opposing to playing w/ the best will be the good thing for them in the long run. We’ve seen instances every year of players who were supposedly not ready to play in the NBA come out and become successful.

  • http://twitter.com/RealTylerTynes Tyler R. Tynes

    It’s not really about whether these kids can play the NBA game or whether they will be superstars or win awards right off the bat, it is more the fact that they will lose draft stock next season, they risk money they could be making and when you look at where they could get drafted (as of right now Goodwin, Poythress, and Cauley go in the first round) and how soon they could contribute to franchises around the NBA. Let’s also remember that Noel would have been the first pick overall this season and with him this is a tournament team, possible conference champion.

  • http://twitter.com/kentuckyloan Joel Lobb

    Yes they are #BBN

  • MJG


    there = their

    your = you’re

    to = too

    *Also, your punctuation is embarrassing. All of this is embarrassing.

  • JAY

    You said “There is a chance that the incoming freshman will take their starting position.”… then you said, “(their) draft stock can be better if they stay in college and get better”. Those are the two scenarios each of these young men have to consider. If they feel like they could lose their starting jobs, then they HAVE to make the jump.

    And this… ” Just because you get projected as a draft pick doesn’t mean you will make a team, they will get tossed around the d-league and might not even make a d-league team.” FYI… If they are projected as first round picks, they are guaranteed a contract. Nobody declares if scouts are saying they are 2nd round picks. Don’t be silly.

    “If they are good enough after another year or two then there will still be nba teams who will draft them, don’t be an idiot”. Take your own advice “guest”. Injuries happen. Imagine staying in school, then shredding your knee. And there are countless examples of underclassmen who stayed and their stock dropped. Sullinger stayed. Yes, he was a 1st round pick but he would have been a top 5 pick if he came out after his freshmen year. He lost a couple of million dollars per season (that’s 8mill total) due to that decision.

    BTW, stay in school. Work on your grammar.

  • JAY

    FYI…. there have been MANY players whose teams didn’t make the big dance, and/or lost in the NIT and still got drafted. Come on kid. You think only players on tournament teams make the NBA? Come on…