Yours truly with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. This has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the post, I just really wanted to use it.
If you’re from Kentuckiana, you’re in for a heck of a basketball season next year. If you’re not from Kentuckiana, you didn’t even know that was a word.
College basketball is packing up its U-Haul and moving out of North Carolina. Tobacco Road has seemed like the Mecca of NCAA hoops for about a decade, and probably rightfully so with great years coming from Coaches Rat-face and Huckleberry Hound. Meanwhile, things in this area looked pretty dim between 2000-2009. Louisville wasn’t living up to expectations under Rick Pitino, who they thought would wave a magic wand and recreate the success he had at Kentucky. The Wildcats grew increasingly frustrating under Tubby Smith, who was eventually replaced with Billy Gillispie for about five minutes before we realized what a terrible idea that was. Indiana was… well they were an absolute mess. They were “Kentucky in the late eighties”. Few thought that even Tom Crean would be able to fix the problems that seemed irreparable.
Then this past year happened, and all of those concerns now seem absolutely ridiculous.
Those same three teams that spent ten years in disarray and disappointment are looking to absolutely dominate college basketball next season. Almost every (way too early) preseason ranking has the Cards, Cats, and Hoosiers ranked as the top three, or at the very least in the top five. Dick Vitale puts U of L in his top spot, while CBS Sports says Kentucky will go wire-to-wire at number one in the offseason. Andy Katz shows IU some love, claiming Zeller’s return will vault Tom Crean to the top of the pile. Three different sources, all claiming that one of the teams from this region will be the number one team in the country, with the other two close behind. UNC and Duke? Well, safe to say they picked up whatever bad luck we’re shaking off around here.
Personally, I’m excited to have Louisville and Indiana re-emerge as great programs. It means we might start losing those games with more regularity, but all three coaches showed some class and dignity last season, and I think it’s time we started doing the same. Heck, even Rick Pitino said he wanted us to win it all after we advanced to the title game.
Speaking of Pitino, his team is going to be absolutely stacked next year. Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith will leave, but probably no one else will. With a healthy Wayne Blackshear to fill that spot, the Cards become an athletic, defensive monster that is borderline terrifying. Their only weakness is that they have absolutely nobody to shoot to open up the lane, but they may not need it. Expect their box scores to look like a football game, with the Cards winning around 85% of them.
On the complete other end of the spectrum, HCTC has assembled a well-oiled offensive machine that’s capable of scoring in bunches in almost any manner possible. Add in a five-star point guard named Yogi Ferrell, and it’s going to be hard to outscore the Hoosiers next season, even if we do play them in Rupp. That may be the game that The Streak ends. If so, at least Cal loses it to a friend, and we get our old rivals back. I don’t think it happens after the last regular season game, but it could.
And then there’s us. Honestly, I think that where we stand right now, three is a little high, but many of those projections take some assumptions with the recruiting class. At this point, we just have to admit how spoiled we really are. We are likely to lose 97% of our scoring, and pundits STILL put us in the top three. Why? Because it’s inevitable that Cal will continue to dominate the recruiting trail. But there are still so many questions about this team, that trying to prognosticate what next year will look like is really an exercise in futility, although Stuart Hammer will try to do just that later on today (Stay Tuned!). One thing you can say about the One-and-Done rule in Cal’s system, though: it makes the offseason entertaining. We have plenty of excitement coming up this week, with Nerlens and Shabazz announcing. Then we get to play the waiting game until the 29th, when our current players will announce whether they will stay or go. Most will go, but a couple might stay. Either way we oughta have a lot of fun, right?
Even though it’s the offseason, college basketball has officially made its way home to us after spending so much time away. From Indiana in the 70s, to Louisville in the 80s, to Kentucky in the 90s, these three teams have alternated which was going to be the top program in the country; now they have to fight to see who this decade will belong to. My money’s on the Cats. Either way, it’s time to put aside petty differences and really enjoy being at the heart of the sport. Indiana, Louisville, and Kentucky have a lot to look forward to next season, and all eyes will be on us from the start. Let’s make it worth watching.