Ok, maybe it is a little premature to be looking ahead to NEXT year’s basketball team, when this year’s team hasn’t won the national title yet, but somebody is gonna have to defend that title, and its comforting to know who that team might be. Now, it’s tough to say what the 2010-11 roster may look like, considering several players may leave school early, and UK only has 1 commitment for the incoming freshman class. But, for the sake of argument, I think some things can be safely assumed:
John Wall (NBA)
Demarcus Cousins (NBA)
Patrick Patterson (NBA)
Ramon Harris (Graduating)
Perry Stevenson (Graduating)
Mark Krebs (Graduating)
As much as we would give our first born children for Wall, Cousins, and/or Patterson to come back for just one more season, it’s just so unlikely to happen that there is no use even really discussing it. And considering the kind of year/careers those 3 guys have had, we should all wish them well on their path to becoming instant millionaires. Harris and Stevenson have had their share of ups and downs under 3 coaches now, and if the Cats were to make it to a Final Four, I would be happiest for those 2 guys because of the hardships/struggles they have endured.
PLAYERS UP IN THE AIR
I personally thing Bledsoe will be back for another season at UK. You would assume scouts do as much homework as possible for guys they might draft, and if you watch Bledsoe, you come to several conclusions: incredible athleticism for his size or any size for that matter, a very nice outside jump shot, and a tendency to struggle in the lane with turnovers. And if I was Bledsoe, I would add into the equation that if he comes back next year, he would be THE GO-TO GUY on the team. He would be an All-American candidate, and polish the skills just a little more before becoming a millionaire himself. I look at him like the Ron Mercer of this team in that the talent is undeniable and amazing to watch. There are just a couple rough edges that a guy like Calipari can smooth out.
Miller, Orton, Liggins, and Dodson have all proven to be completely capable players this season. We have barely seen Hood this year, so who knows if he might contribute next year. Harrelson has also seen limited action this year, but there may be a lack of depth in the post next year, so Josh may get many more minutes. While there is nothing wrong with this group of 6 players, this is not a group that would be a Final Four contender on paper. But, if you add Bledsoe to the mix, they likely become a Top 15 team. Then, when you add in what everybody hopes will be another good recruiting class, you have the POTENTIAL for a very good team.
Poole comes in as a 4-star wing player, who should fit in very nicely in the Calipari system. He also has the advantage of having some solid players in front of him (Miller, Dodson, Liggins) that he can compete with and not have the pressure to contribute immediately. Now, where do that Cats go from here in the recruiting world? I would say a big man would be nice, to give a little depth to Orton and Harrelson. Also, Brandon Knight would obviously be a great get to pair with Bledsoe in much the same way that Wall and Bledsoe pair nicely this season.
Unless recruiting goes AMAZING over the next couple months, I think its safe to assume that next year’s team will likely go into the year with less expectations that this years team. The key to me is if Bledsoe comes back. If he decides to leave, I think this team takes a fairly large drop for a year, becoming a fringe Top 20 team with a tough challenge in the SEC. Bledsoe comes back, gives them a star in the backcourt, and big things can be hoped for again. You know that Coach Cal will bring in some other great players to go with Poole, but to expect any group of freshman to contribute like this year’s have is wishful thinking. It will likely not ever happen again at UK. At the same time, to have a team with smaller expectations might be a good thing for the players. Sometimes you can get the feel this team gets tight at times, and that no doubt has to do with fan pressure.