Often favored by the NCAA Basketball odds, the Kentucky Wildcats ended 2014-2015 at 38-1. Can Coach John Calipari come back with another bunch of highly touted freshman and make another run?
Highest of Expectations
I'm going to go back a bit because this past year's Kentucky team was listed as even money to win the NCAA Championship. They were actually mentioned with some of the greatest teams in college basketball history.It was a shock to most of the world when they were sent packing and in return, 7 players have declared eligibility for the NBA.
Even Coach Mike Krzyzewski has adjusted to the "one and done" reoccurring theme which is happening in college basketball. A lot of these talented kids can't pass up the money and are afraid of risking injury and it's on to the NBA. Coach Calipari, who is the best recruiter in college basketball, specifically recruits knowing that most of his players will be playing for Kentucky for one season and it's a lot of pressure.
Is John Calipari Leaving?
I equate John Calipari with Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks. Both coaches initially were head coaches on the professional level and found it difficult to win.
Carroll was head coach of the New York Jets and moved on to the USC Trojans, where he had a ton of success. John Calipari was head coach of the New Jersey Nets and he also had a tough time at the pro level. I'm not so sure that Calipari will be running back to the pros unless the money is irresistible. Carroll is the exception to the rule, he went back to the NFL and won a Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks. College basketball is an entirely different game. Calipari won't leave on such a sour note.
One more aspect to their coaching, and it's been mentioned by commentators on television, is that Coach Cal is more of a recruiter and "let the superstar players handle their business on the court" type of head coach. He's not an x's and o's type of guy. The moment that his club faced some adversity, he was unable to help them against the experience of Wisconsin.
Not all hope is lost as point guard Tyler Ulis, Marcus Lee, and E.J. Floreal will all be returning for the 2015-2016 NCAA Basketball Season. While his numbers (5.6 points and 3.6 assists) looked small along with his 5 foot 9 size, I expect a lot of Ulis as he started to gain more minutes later in the season and played well. Coach Calipari actually said that he felt really comfortable with Ulis at the point guard and on the court most of the time. That's high praise.
Junior, Alex Poythress, is on the fence about declaring for the NBA, but expect him to be at Kentucky for one more season. His stock is at an all time low due to injuries from this past season.
We have to remember that the statistics on all of these players are going to be low as Kentucky is always stacked with talent. Coaching legend, Larry Brown, thought that Kentucky could be a playoff team in the NBA. I think Mr. Brown would like to retract those comments after the Wildcats came up short in their last game.
Of course, Coach Calipari was back on the recruiting trail and he landed the top center and #3 player in ESPN's top 100 recruits in Skal Labissiere.
Word has it that Labissiere could possibly be taken #1 in the 2016 NBA Draft! While this is possible, let's remember that everyone had Kentucky winning this season and Duke was the eventual NCAA Champions.
New Jersey high school basketball is a hotbed for talent and the Cats landed Isaiah Briscoe out of Roselle Catholic High School at the #13 spot on ESPN. Kentucky has all basis covered as they landed shooting guard, Charles Matthews, at the 42nd position at ESPN. Matthews is ranked 2nd in the state of Illinois at his respective position.
Can Kentucky Win an NCAA Title in 2015-2016?
Point being, the Wildcats never give up and John Calipari's ability to recruit young talent is 2nd to none. We also have to remember that teams such as Duke will be losing a ton of "one and done" freshman and Wisconsin will be losing experienced players. The door is wide open for Coach John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats to have another crack at the title next season.