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Back-to-Back: Is It Possible?

“Woman and Man Seated Back to Back” sounded a lot better than “Pissy Upper Class Couple With a Crippling Sense of Entitlement”

Quick question for you:  What if Enes Kanter had been eligible?  We bemoaned and belabored that very issue a year ago, but it hasn’t come up lately.  But think about it.  If he had been eligible, it’s possible we could have gone back-to-back.  True, we may not have had the Jorts phenomenon, but there’s a very real chance it would have been replaced with a championship.  We would have gotten #8 last year, instead of this year.  Does that mean that we would have repeated this year?  Well, maybe not. Sometimes losing those tournament games have unexpected benefits.

I think, no, I know that the lockout and overall draft position had a lot to do with Terrence Jones’ and Doron Lamb’s decisions to return to school this year, but I can’t think that winning a championship their freshman year wouldn’t have made them consider leaving a little more strongly.  National Championships tend to do that to players.  Probably.  We’ll see in a couple weeks.  But say we won it all last year… Do you think we’d have Jones and Lamb again this year?

Very real chance we wouldn’t.

And that’s the issue I’m struggling with.  I’m of the opinion that the annual “Wildcat Reload” may be too quick.  I propose instead that we need a two-year cycle.  Say we start four freshmen and a transfer next year (which is a distinct possibility).  Can we win a title with that team?  I’m happy to be proven wrong, but I just don’t think so.  If there’s one thing the past three teams have had in common, it’s a steadying upperclassman presence.  That presence doesn’t have to be large, and it doesn’t always have to be the best player on the team; in fact, it hasn’t been.  Wall and Cousins were both better than Patterson, even though Patterson was maybe one of the highest “character guys” in the last decade, and had the talent to go along with it.  Knight was the best player on the team last year, with Jones arguably right behind him.  And this year?   Well, nobody’s gonna say that Davis and MKG weren’t the two best players on the team.

So it’s proven that Championships can be won when the best few players on the team are freshmen.  Cal and Co. just settled that one, thank you very much.  But can it be won when practically ALL the core players are in their first year?  We may have to find out next year.  Our most recent title (if you can remember it, it happened so long ago) was won with a “starting six” that was split evenly between freshmen and upperclassmen.  3-and-3.  Next year, counting Harrow as a freshman because he hasn’t played an official game yet, we’re looking at 5-1, or even 6-1.  And that one is a sophomore.  I just think it’s too much, too fast.  Maybe we should mix in “four-year” players with those we know will be “one-and-done” in every recruiting class.  Or even *gasp!* NOT get the top recruiting class every year, just to have some guys stick around to keep the balance.

I think Cal may be on the same page, but the recruits don’t always do exactly what you’d expect.  I’ll bet if you asked him in 2009 where he thought Daniel Orton would be this year, he’d have said Kentucky.  Orton would be getting ready for his senior year, and he’d probably be a pretty good post player for us.  Eric Bledsoe might even have stuck around if his situation were different, and imagine the point guard he would be.  This year, Kyle Wiltjer’s back to grace us with his terrific three point shooting, and we have Willie Cauley to look forward to, who I’ll bet we get for a few years.  So there is that effort there to get the guys who will be here to learn the system, I just don’t know if it’ll be able to keep up.

At this rate, I don’t see how we can go back-to-back with such a high turnover.  I’m not saying unequivocally that it can’t be done.  I know better than that.  But looking at next year, I just don’t see how.  There’s just too much youth.


Unless we get Nerlens and Shabazz.  Then all bets are off.

Article written by Corey Nichols

49 Comments for Back-to-Back: Is It Possible?

  1. EgginDallas
    9:04 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    Nice post, it is a very great point. I think we do owe the lockout a great big thank you, and no, we wouldn’t have won #8 if Jones and Lamb were not playing.

  2. JMills
    9:08 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    It doesn’t do much good to wonder “what ifs.” But I have always wondered what if Jodie came back as a 3 point threat in Cals first year. Add that to your argument. Looks like back to back to back to me

  3. JDH
    9:09 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    Ever heard of a redshirt junior named Jon Hood?

  4. KcMunk
    9:09 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    Ryan Harrow as a freshman??? He played an entire season for NC State. Hes actually played clos to 30 “actual” games.

  5. Adam McFarland
    9:10 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    I’m not sure I understand the point you’re making. The annual “Wildcat reload” may be too quick? You’re “struggling with this issue” because you aren’t’ sure UK can win back to back championships with this style? Finally win a title(first one since 1998), and now we have people saying yeah, but can this style produce “back-to back titles?!?” Good Lord. John Calipari has it right, man. We really are nuts.

  6. HicksPickSix
    9:13 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    Corey, please stick to posts where you boast about having your picture taken with sleazy Supreme Court Justices; you clearly don’t know what you’re talking about when it comes to anything else.

  7. Tyrannosaur
    9:15 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    I see your point, but Cal is building the program on getting insanely talented freshmen to become a team in every sense of the word, and forsaking their stats and any hints of selfish desire. You may be right that this team very well may not have won without Miller, but the counterpoint is that it is a certainty they wouldn’t have won without Davis or MKG.

    I really think it’s a combination of circumstance and gameplan; i.e. we happened to be low on upperclassmen in the first place when Cal got here, and his system has made that even more evident.

    The truth of the matter is he can either recruit less talented players in hopes they stay longer, or recruit the best of the best and try to get them to come together (which he is obviously a master of). Like you said, if we land both, we are in fine shape.

  8. Will
    9:18 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    Let’s see who’s coming back and who we get first then we can talk about this upcoming team! We are National Champions #8!!!Enjoy everyone!!:)

  9. tltaworl
    9:19 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    Or, we could just win it every year…

  10. Will
    9:19 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    Anything is possible to those that Believe!!!

  11. Baffled
    9:21 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    You consider Ryan Harrow (3rd year sophomore) a freshman and sophomores (Jones, Lamb, and Wiltjer next year) upperclassmen? Interesting logic.

    Look, we’re going to have one and dones and long as the rule exists. That works for Cal and ipso facto, works for us. Now, sprinkle in guys like Darius, Wiltjer, Cauley, Hood, possibly Goodwin/Poythress, Willis, and you start building a stable of 2-3 year players. I will concede we won’t have many 4 year players and you know what? I DON’T CARE.

    In other news, Assassin #2 told me that Bill Gates was going back to college to get his degree b/c that’s something they can’t take away from him.

  12. beepthacreep
    9:21 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    corey seems to be the worst ksr write you guys have!!!!! How can he possible be back next week, i dont see how but it is possible.

  13. Jones Returns
    9:22 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    Correct Statement: Unless we get Nerlens and Shabazz. Then all bets are off.
    – Absolutely!

    Incorrect Statement: Nobody’s gonna say that Davis and MKG weren’t the two best players on the team.
    – Davis and ‘Jones’ were the two best players on the team. Period! And it wasn’t even close.

  14. go away
    9:24 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    Go away

  15. Loyal Royal
    9:25 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    The importance of upperclassmen is as much off the court as it is on. Showing the freshman where buildings are, how to practice, what the coaches expect, what to expect in Gainesville, etc… In those cases, we have Polson, Beckham, Hood, Harrow & Wiltjer. And some of those guys can significantly contribute on the court as well. We’re fine, Chicken Little!

  16. Real UK Fan
    9:26 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    Good thing the OP is attempting to find a job as a journalist because it is obvious there is not enough intelligence lurking in there to get a real job.

  17. Jerry Tipton
    9:29 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    Never really been a fan of KSR but this post was extremely informative and well written.

  18. Adam McFarland
    9:29 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    I’m still laughing that a week after winning #8 we’re questioning whether or not our system is built to win back-to-back titles. I mean this is high comedy, folks. Actually the more I think about it the more I hope this is a very, very dry attempt at sarcasm. Spoofing “crazy UK fans”, perhaps.

  19. Al's IndiCats
    9:34 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    All bets are off, The Flat Top “FELLER” isn’t going to go to college at all. He’s joining the cast of “Crash This Yard” on the DIY channel.

  20. Cliver
    9:37 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    So you’re saying Cal should sandbag it when it comes to recruiting? That’s absurd.

  21. Dear Lord
    9:38 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    Jon Hood is still on the team???? Wtf
    I hope he’s not on scholly.. Is Polson on scholly????
    How bout we let them walk on? Make room for the big dogs!!

  22. manbearpig
    9:43 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    Corey, no where in your incoherent rambling were you even close to something that resembled a right answer. I award you no points and may god have mercy on your soul

  23. TJones
    9:46 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    Corey Nichols = New BTI

  24. MCB
    9:46 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    UK could have one #7 IF Derek Anderson doesn’t get hurt, #9 IF Jodie Meeks had stayed, #10 IF Kanter was eligible then 2012 would have been #11. IF all this happened we would be talking about passing UCLA next year.

  25. tltaworl
    9:52 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    I just read this again, and I respectfully disagree with this absurdity you speak. First, I don’t think anybody not named Corey would think Orten would still be here. And Harrow a Freshman? ? ? And if you have EVER heard Cal talk about recruiting, he wants the best players everyyear, not that hard to figure out. I don’t think anybody in the country would take on this strategy, it is just known that other schools will play seniority (UNC, Duke) if it is close talent wise. Look at Mcadoo. He was the best player in the Jordan Classic last year (Sans Davis) and he got no time unless somebody was hurt. Now he paid his dues and gets to play. That is not the way it works at UK. If MKG is better, he gets to play. Darius, you are on the bench, what are you going to do to earn min. It is not that complicated guys, the best players play. Period

  26. tltaworl
    9:55 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    23. If we are talking ifs and buts then you have to look at ’52 with the grad players, ’66 with the Runts having the flu; ’75 Wooden retiring; ’93 Mash fouling out; ’94 Dent gets hurt; ’95 the refs killed us vs. UNC; ’03 Bogans gets hurt; ’10 Carrier Dome shooting. So had ALL those things not happened we would be talking about #19 next year. 🙂

  27. Amaze Pants
    9:56 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    Corey — if you called up the radio show and said this to Matt Jones, he will scream and ask “what is wrong with you, we just won a title!!!!” and hang up.

    Obviously there is no quality control. Nor mandatory for writers to listen to the radio show.

  28. WOW
    9:58 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    What a ridiculous idea…”Maybe we should mix in some four year players”. Cal does not recruit one-and-dones, he recruits the best players. Will some, perhaps most, leave early for the NBA? Of course, but to say that he should recruit lesser talent just so they’ll stay for four years is absurd! Vandy does that and they just celebrated their first conference championship in 50 freakin’ years! Oh, and they lost in the 2nd round of the NCAA tourney. To say Cal’s approach at recruiting the best players is flawed makes no sense. How many other schools have been in the Elite Eight for the last 3 years? The Final Four in the last 2 years? A National Championship?

  29. tired college student
    9:59 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    i agree with #22…def the new BTI

  30. JPhelps
    10:18 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    Too much youth??? Who let Pat Forde hack Corey Nichols’ posting privileges? Somebody’s got some splainin’ to do!

  31. cristoforouk
    10:38 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    Sorry, Lamb would have been back either way. He was at best a second round pick last year. Nowhere near ready. He will be fortunate to sneak into the first round this year.

    Harrow a freshman? Come on now. It will be his third year as a collegiate athlete, and his second year under Cal. Sure he has some learning to do in real game situations but he won’t have the growing pains of a typical freshman. Nowhere near a freshman.

    And how do we know that last year’s team’s chemistry would have been better with Kanter than Jorts? There is no way to know what kind of team we would have had with Kanter. They could have done worse even if they were more talented. Last year’s team had great chemistry and completed each other. Jorts was a HUGE part of that.

  32. Kansas City Cat
    10:51 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    We have to have at least a couple sophs and above to win a title. Without Lamb, Jones and Miller I don’t think they would’ve had anywhere near the success they had. That’s why we need to get more guys like Cauley and Wiltjer. Or at least have a good mix. I’m hoping we have that when/if Goodwin and Poythress stay two years. In 2013 we’d have a great mix of talent, depth and experience. Having said that, if we do add Bazz and Noel we will still be very dangerous. I think the playing field will be more level next year too esp when IU and UL are the teams people are talking about..come on now. Go Cats!

  33. KyJoe
    11:02 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    Whats the deal with people calling P Pat a character guy and not give his talent enough credit. Without him the two years with Billy G. Go down as te worst two seasons in uk history. He was out only true big guy and he would of produced beater numbers if Meeks didn’t shoot 30 times a game. Hang him in the rafters!!!

  34. catfan65
    11:04 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    NCAAB will be very weak next year. IU will be very good next year, but they would not have even been in the conversation for Preseason #1 last year. It will be easier to win it all in 2013 than it was in 2012.

    But come on, if the Cats get at least one of Noel or Muhammad they will be legit title contenders, and, with both, UK may be the favorite. I can’t believe we are even having this discussion. What Calipari has done here has been nothing short of miraculous. There will be some players, like Wiltjer and Cauley who will likely stay for several years and be major contributors. But if they get a chance to go pro earlier than expected because they play really well, that is not a bug in the system, it is the most important feature of the system. Bledsoe was the #23 player coming out of HS according to Rivals and after 1 year he was not only in the NBA, he was playing. For comparison, Orton was #22 and of those ranked between 12 and 21, none are in the NBA and currently only John Jenkins (#15) projects as a 1st rounder. But Renardo Sidney should be eating a D-League team out of house and home soon. Below Bledsoe, I believe only Tyler Honeycutt (#28) and Kawhi Leonard (#48) have made it to the NBA and Honeycutt only averages 0.8 PPG. Thomas Robinson (#31) will be a top-5 pick, so he is an example of a guy who stayed around and really raised his draft stock, but T-Rob was really only a major contributor at KU his Junior season. So in a sense, he had the same impact as a one-and-done. Bottom line is we should quit whining about whether players stay or not and just realize that if we get top talent and they work hard, play unselfishly, and perform, they will leave early and get drafted. Subsequent elite talent players see those results and want to come to UK. That is the “Kentucky Effect” that Cal talks about. UK has players that one would expect to stay 4 years like Hood, Poole (had he not transferred), etc. But if UK was relying heavily on Hood this season, people would be up in arms about the lack of depth, etc. In other words, we don’t need more 4 and dones, they are even less of a sure thing than one and dones (and they eat up scholarships (ask Roy Williams). I’ll take my chances with the way Cal does things and I’m going to enjoy #8 more before I start worrying about whether his system can win 2-3 in a row.

  35. Shhboomshhbooms
    11:18 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    Dude, you don’t deserve to be a blogger on here. Ryan harrow played an entire year before he came here and averaged almost 10 ppg so check your facts first. Plus he’s grown 2-3 inches and practiced against the best in the country for a year. And secondly, quit being so pessimistic with every post you put up please.

  36. catfan65
    11:27 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    Can we give all b.s. about needing a certain mix of sophs, etc. to win a title? That is obviously not true. First, every team, even UK next year, is going to have upperclassmen that contribute. But UK could easily have four freshmen start next year and be the favorite to win it all depending on who we get of the remaining recruits. With the amount of minutes that the guys Cal brings in play by March, they are in no real way freshmen by the tournament. I mean how good couold James Michael McAdoo have been at UNC have been had he gotten to play as much as UKs freshmen this year? Is a sophomore who barely played his freshman year really all that better than a freshman who has played 35 min. a game right out of the gate? You can have talent or experience, but, except for rare occasions, not both. I’ll take my chances with Cal winning with young talent. But don’t fret, along the way, we will have players, like I believe Wiltjer will be, who stay 3-4 years and become major contributors. But I know that if we have a bunch of guys leave for the NBA each year, they likely performed well and UK had a good season.

  37. Dee
    11:36 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    Plus…Coach Cal planned on Cousins being a “two-year” guy….

  38. catsfan65
    11:45 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    Hmmm, I have never heard that Cal planned on Cousins being a 2-yr. guy. Cousins was the #2 HS recruit and always was likely to be a one-and-done if he so chose. I’ve heard that Cousins talked about wanting to stay, but Cal told him would be crazy not to go, but who really knows. I’m sure Cal would have been surprised at the beginning of the year to see Bledsoe and Orton drafted 1st round, but he replaced Bledsoe with Knight, so no damage done, and Orton’s departure was addition by subtraction IMO.

  39. mark nardin
    11:56 am April 10, 2012 Permalink

    sophomores arent upperclassmen

  40. John Ellis
    12:02 pm April 10, 2012 Permalink

    Ryan has practiced with the team for a year. And Knight didn’t play well in the tournament, though he hit two game winning shots. He had the most pro potential of anyone on the team, the smartest; he really broke down that crucial two minutes against UConn, but in part that was Cal’s fault as it was obvious we were going to him every play. Jorts was the best player on that team in terms of impact and Calhoun focused his game plan on stopping him; Miller could have had the most impact, but either he vanished or wasn’t called on. Jones for much of the year had the most impact. On that game shot against UConn, a pity it wasn’t Jorts or Miller taking that three. Still if Liggins had stepped into it, it was on line… That was a team, played as much as a team as this year’s. Beat the two best teams on the way (or two of the five), just couldn’t get past UConn’s junk in the worst played FF ever by a mile.

  41. Still the best
    12:21 pm April 10, 2012 Permalink

    if orton stayed we may not have been blessed with AD

  42. wtf???
    12:22 pm April 10, 2012 Permalink

    -you can’t count harrow as a FR. he’s a third year guy wjo’s literally already played one season
    -you didnt mention hood. he may not play much but may get 5+ min/gm.
    -orton was a top 20 recruit. why would cal expect him to be coming back for his SR year?
    -our team was not split evenly between FR & upperclassmen, 3-3, last year

  43. GoodLord
    12:28 pm April 10, 2012 Permalink

    Is Corey Nichols actually Jerry Tipton’s alias? Who the hell allows this guy to keep writing this garbage?! Seems just like Tipton…no clue & always b!tching about something.

  44. snl1960
    12:54 pm April 10, 2012 Permalink

    in cals system , even the players that are not expected to go in the draft. may progress in a manner that their skill level gives them the oportunity to go get some money. cal will push them in that we may never see another senior at Kentucky.

  45. Go Cats7
    1:25 pm April 10, 2012 Permalink

    I know it will be his first year in the program but if we land Oriakhi as a transfer he will give the team some upper class men leadership. Yes, he doesn’t have the experience in Cal’s system but he has played 3 seasons in D1 college basketball, including a Championship run with UConn 2 years ago (No longer the defending champs.) That experience could really help out the younger guys

  46. 00BBN00
    2:50 pm April 10, 2012 Permalink

    How long will you allow a Louisville fan to post on KSR? So many errors in this article. Only reason I read it was so that I could fully enjoy the comment section that would inevitably let you have it.

  47. Weinberg
    3:57 pm April 10, 2012 Permalink

    What if Jodie Meeks had stayed? He would have shot us out of the slump against West Virginia and who knows maybe we’d have 3peated with Jodie and Enus

  48. Hoosier Wild Cat
    6:33 pm April 10, 2012 Permalink

    I don’t BELIEVE we have signed a one & done for next year yet. It looks like to me Cal is thinking long term and if we get Noel or Shabaz they will be our only one & done.

  49. Fred
    9:01 pm April 10, 2012 Permalink

    At the risk of being redundant:

    1) Harrow is not and should not be counted as a Freshman…HE’S A 3RD YEAR SOPHOMORE FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!

    2) Jon Hood, 4th year Junior, and former top 40 high school player is back and should be in the mix for playing time unless we get 2 of Nerlens / Shabazz / Bennett.