I never thought I’d say it, but thank god basketball is over. This season has finally ended and we can fully focus on next year’s squad, which, according to ESPN’s “Very Early Top 25,” will be the best in the land:
1. Kentucky Wildcats: Could the Wildcats really go from first-round NIT losers to NCAA champions? Absolutely. Kentucky’s 2013 recruiting class is already being hailed as the best in college basketball history. The haul includes four players (Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Julius Randle and James Young) ranked among the nation’s top 10 prospects by ESPN.com. From a pure talent standpoint, this might be the best college basketball team ever assembled. But will it jell? Even though injuries and chemistry issues ruined his most recent team, John Calipari has proven to be excellent at coaching players who only plan to spend a year or two in college. He’s great at getting them to play defense and share the ball. It will help that some of Kentucky’s key players in 2012-13 (Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kyle Wiltjer) will return to provide veteran leadership, which is something the program sorely lacked last season. Another huge difference will be the point guard position, which lacked stability last season. Andrew Harrison could become the next star under Calipari, who has coached Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall and Brandon Knight.
So does USA Today:
No. 1 Kentucky (This season: 21-12, lost in first round of NIT): Not even injuries can prevent John Calipari’s latest recruiting class from leading Kentucky back to the NCAA tournament after Nerlens Noel’s season-ending ACL tear derailed and eventually cost the Wildcats a shot at the NCAAs this season. Returnees Willie Cauley-Stein and sophomore Kyle Wiltjer will be meshed with one of the best freshmen classes ever. The Sensational Six – Marcus Lee, Dakari Johnson, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Julius Randle and James Young – give Calipari undoubtedly the country’s best talent. The team’s chemistry will be the crucial ingredient to a winning recipe. UK loses Julius Mays to graduation, Archie Goodwin to the NBA and likely Noel to the NBA.
And The Big Lead:
1. Kentucky Wildcats (21-12, Did not make NCAA Tournament)
Six McDonald’s All-Americans are coming, and three might start in the frontcourt — power forward Julius Randle, small forward James Young, and center Daraki Johnson. Two will start in the backcourt — Andrew Harrison (PG) and Aaron Harrison (SG). Toss in power forward Marcus Lee, and you’ve got a Fab 5-like haul. This already feels like the 2011-2012 team all over again, with Alex Poythress and Kyle Wiltjer as the holdovers. Oh, did I mention the best player in the Class of 2013, and possibly the best high school talent since LeBron, Andrew Wiggins, is considering UK?
That makes today a little less painful.