Should Kentucky Be Preseason #1?

The Kentucky Wildcats have been picked as the top team headed into the 2013-14 college basketball season. This comes off a year in which the Wildcats did not even make the NCAA Tournament. Not only did they miss out on the March Madness tournament but they were bounced in the first round of the NIT Tournament by Robert Morris. Most fan bases would have been livid but Big Blue Nation realized the team that played Robert Morris would not be the team that takes the court to start the 2013-14 season. The one and done rule in college basketball has greatly changed the way major programs recruit and this is illustrated perfect by the University of Kentucky Wildcats.

John Calipari’s Recruiting

Whether you love him or hate him you have to admit that John Calipari is an outstanding recruiter. Even when he was at Memphis he was able to recruit some of the best players in the country such as Derrick Rose. There is little argument to be made that Calipari is the best point guard recruiter in the land. In fact, he may be the best point guard recruiter in the history of college basketball. In the last five years Calipari has coached Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall, Brandon Knight and Marquis Teague. All of these guards were first round picks and four of the five were top 10 draft picks.

The rules in the NBA have drastically changed the way the game is played. The hand check rule allows quick point guards to get around a defender and break down the defense. As the new college basketball rules are implemented we are going to see point guards become an even more important part of the game. This means that Calipari’s recruiting efforts will make him an even better coach.

Something unique about Calipari is that he embraces the one and done rule. While some coaches try to find players they will have for all four years Calipari continues to recruit players that are only going to be in his program for one year. This is a unique perspective that some do not agree with. College basketball purists want to see players stay all four years and earn a degree. Unfortunately, in today’s society, most talented high school athletes have no desire to stay in college for four years. They are not getting paid in terms of a paycheck and they see greener pastures with the millions of dollars that can be earned in the NBA.

Rather than fighting a losing battle, Calipari explains the entire situation to the recruit and their family. If it is best for that player to suit up in Kentucky Blue for 40 games and then head to the NBA Calipari embraces it. Trust me when I tell you that some college coaches will never be able to accept this type of mindset and/or behavior.

Youth vs Experience

Heading into the 2013-14 season I cannot name three of the Kentucky players. They brought in an amazing freshman class (again) and Calipari is going to look to these young men to lead the team. In the 1980’s and 1990’s there is no way a team of freshman would be preseason #1. Heck, there is no way a team of freshman would be ranked in the preseason top 25. There was a time that college basketball players did not get to start until their junior or senior season. They had to sit behind the older players even if they were more talented. This was true in all college sports.

I can clearly remember Florida State not starting a quarterback unless they were a junior. Today Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel are starting for top 10 programs at the age of 19. I think it is safe to say that the landscape of college sports has changed quite a bit in the last decade. If Calipari can get his young team to play together by the middle of the SEC conference season there is a strong likelihood they will get a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Kentucky Wildcats have been all or nothing with Calipari as coach. They have won a national championship and missed the NCAA Tournament. I think we will see the same thing this season.

Either this team will mesh and they will be one of the top teams in the country or they will remain immature and lose games which they should win. We will be able to tell, early on, if this is a team that can win a national championship. They play Michigan State on November 12th and UNC onDecember 14th. These are both away games that will test the young players. If they come out of these games 2-0 they will be an amazing team this year.

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