For Kentucky it’s two exhibitions down, the entire regular season to go. It surely feels rewarding being able to see the Cats back in action on the hardwood, and beginning Friday night in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, it will actually mean something.
ESPN writer Myron Medcalf has 25 burning questions for the 2012 college basketball season. Unsurprisingly, Kentucky is mentioned in a number of the questions and has implications in others.
1. Will Kentucky do it again? Just seven months removed from a national title run, John Calipari’s squad is expected to compete for another championship. I think last season’s crew had a unique blend of high-level talent, poise and depth. I don’t know if Cal’s latest group has the same mojo, but the pieces are there … The Wildcats are stacked again. But there’s more talent and depth at the top this year. Hard to envision a run that equates to 2012, but Calipari continues to prove that he’s capable of producing contenders driven by young stars.
It’s been said repeatedly that this year’s team is not last year’s team. Drawing comparisons aren’t fair for anybody — players, coaches or fans. But that is exactly what we keep doing. At this point, the entire college basketball landscape is mesmerized at the talent John Calipari has been able to assemble in Lexington. Most have accepted their fate as forever next-best, and still others not associated with Big Blue Nation are bored to tears with the clean sweep Calipari puts on recruiting classes.
Will Kentucky do it again? It’s hard to say this early on. The Wildcats were so good last season that it is hard not to play devil’s advocate. Realistically, the only way to go is down. Without a doubt, Kentucky will have a special team and this squad will do some impressive things. But the competition is fierce and the target is once again painted brightly on the backs of our Cats. If anyone is up for the challenge, it’s a Calipari-led team.
10. Will Nerlens Noel restore America’s love for the high-top fade? Last year, Anthony Davis sparked a national love affair with the unibrow. His successor, Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel — and other standouts such as Wisconsin’s Ryan Evans — could instigate similar adoration for his preferred hairstyle, the high-top fade. One can only hope.
Is this really a question? Kentucky not only owns college basketball they own social media trends. There is always a “thing” for Kentucky fans. The high-top will reign supreme in 2012. Expect dozens more t-shirts and hashtags to appear this season.
13. How will Missouri (SEC) and West Virginia (Big 12) perform in their new leagues? Both schools need to incorporate key transfers to excel. But if they find that chemistry, the Tigers and Mountaineers will vie for an NCAA tournament slot and challenge the top teams in their respective conferences.
17. Can Florida upset Kentucky for the SEC crown? The Gators are the SEC’s best option to end Kentucky’s reign. Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy and Patric Young give the Gators a strong core and versatility. The SEC — with Missouri and Tennessee in the mix, too — could be interesting.
The competition nationally is strong, with Indiana and Louisville being the clear front-runners for the title game. But the Cats will need to fight their way through a much-improved SEC ledger before they begin eying Atlanta. Missouri, Florida, even Tennessee are legitimate threats to the Cats in the conference, and Arkansas may be a dark horse.
The college basketball season is one of the best times of the year. The excitement from the young players, the passion of the fan bases, the sold-out arenas, the high profile teams and the underdogs, the marquee matchups, and the greatest tradition in the history of college basketball. Kentucky will attempt to defend its national title, and we’ll once again be along for the ride. Buckle up.