Photo : Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
Now that Coach Cal has permanently put to rest the question of whether or not you can win a championship under the one-and-done method of recruiting, he now faces the task of trying to defend the title and reload after most of this team evacuates Lexington for the NBA. I decided to do a little research and see how the past three NCAA champs fared in the season following their title run. I’m well aware that the numbers and results of these teams have nothing to do with how the ‘Cats will do next year, but it is pretty interesting to see how they dealt with losing big contributions from players that departed after their championship season. I broke down the percentage of points, rebounds and assists that each team lost from their title season, and how well that team did the following year. Enjoy.
2010-2011 champs — UCONN Huskies
What they lost — 48% of scoring, 30% of rebounds, 54% of assists
What they gained — 17th best recruiting class in the nation (according to Rivals). Though I should point out that Rivals ranked them 17th before knowing Andre Drummond reclassified and committed to the Huskies, so you could pretty much assume they would have had a top 10 or even top 5 class if that were taken into account.
2011-2012 preseason rank (AP poll) — 4th
How they did — I won’t beat around the bush, UCONN had a terrible year following their championship. Losing the heart and soul of the championship team, Kemba Walker, proved too big a blow for Connecticut to handle. After going 8-10 in Big East play, the Huskies scratched their way into the tournament as a 9 seed before being embarrassed by a 13-point beatdown from Iowa State in the first round. They struggled with team chemistry problems, a sick coach, and sky-high expectations in a season that coach Jim Calhoun is surely glad to have behind him.
2009-2010 champs — Duke Blue Devils
What they lost — 43% of scoring, 49 % of rebounds, 58% of assists
What they gained — 10th best recruiting class, highlighted by future No. 1 overall pick of the NBA Draft, Kyrie Irving.
2010-2011 preseason rank — 1st
How they did — Duke found themselves at or near the top of the polls all season long. They earned a 1-seed in the tournament, but were upset by 16 points in the Sweet Sixteen by Derrick Williams and the Arizona Wildcats. They finished with an overall record of 32-5.
2008-2009 champs — North Carolina Tar Heels
What they lost — 82% of scoring, 60% of rebounds, 81% of assists
What they gained — 5th best recruiting class, highlighted by John Henson. The Tar Heels brought in 5 freshmen in the top 100 of their class.
2009-2010 preseason rank — 6th
How they did — Similar to this year’s UCONN team, the 09-10 Tar Heels completely failed to live up to the preseason hype. In one 14-game stretch, UNC went 3-11. The unthinkable happened in Chapel Hill when the Heels failed to make the NCAA tournament. Worst of all? They didn’t even win the NIT.
We don’t know who all from this year’s Kentucky team is leaving for sure yet, but I calculated UK’s numbers assuming we lose both seniors and all five underclassmen that have a shot at getting drafted.
2011-2012 champs — Kentucky Wildcats
What they would lose — 94% of scoring, 92% of rebounds, 98% of assists
What they would gain — Presumably a top 5 recruiting class. However, the addition of Nerlens Noel and/or Shabazz Muhammad would skyrocket the newest class of ‘Cats to the top of the recruiting rankings for a fourth straight year.
UK will be losing basically everything if all seven of those guys do end up leaving. But like I said, the failures of the champs before UK obviously have nothing to do with next year’s team. A lot of people would tell you that if history is any indication, the ‘Cats chances at repeating aren’t very good at all…but those are probably the same people that said you can’t win with freshmen.