Look, I am not saying that whenever this next college basketball season begins that Kentucky isn’t going to be AWESOME. Calipari definitely seems high on this team and despite his normal hyperbole, he is saying things he doesn’t say about every team. But what do we gain by already arguing “Final Four or Bust” or “3 losses or less” kind of predictions? Why must we always claim out incoming freshman will have a Wall, Davis, Towns kind of impact? What do we actually gain from doing that? And if you don’t believe, take a run down memory lane since 2015:
*Everybody remembers that Skal Labiessiere was a Top 3 player in his class, right? He was supposed to be the next Cousins, Davis, Randle, Towns, Noel. He was the natural successor to those guys. Tyler Ulis was coming back for a 2nd season. Isaiah Briscoe was a Top 20 player and one of the 2-3 best guards in his class. Jamal Murray was going to be this dynamic Canadian sharpshooter. And it just never clicked for that group. They were a fine team, but people were seriously discussing 40-0 again with that group, especially after they won their first 7 games, including over Duke. They ended up losing 9 games and falling in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament.
*This team did turn out to be a great team, no doubt. But despite starting the year #2 in the polls, they lost home games against Kansas and UCLA, they are one of only 2 teams to lose to Louisville, and let us not forget the Malik Monk laughing episode at Florida. At that point in the season, that team was 18-5 and ranked 15th in the country. Now, they figured it out in the end and had a shot at the title, but the hype coming into the year didn’t materialize until late February.
*The hype around this team was high as well. 5th ranked in the preseason. Freshman class includes Kevin Knox, SG Alexander, PJ Washington, Quade Green, and Nick Richards. Hami Diallo was going to be one of the greatest transfers in UK history. Sophomore Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones were going to make great leaps. Jarred Vanderbilt, when healthy, was going to be the difference maker. And basically, outside of Alexander, most of these guys were a disappointment. Washington came around by the end of the year and Knox had a couple moments, as did Diallo, but this might have been Cal’s 2nd or 3rd worst team. They were fringe Top 25.
No team had more hype coming into a season than this one. Remember the Bahamas trip? 40-0 was a lock for many people. Instead, they lost the first game of the season by 34 points. Now, this team was still a very good team. They never got above #4 in the rankings again but they were a very, very good team that finished with a disappointing loss to Auburn. But the hype around this team was so out of control and it burned all of us for that entire season.
Now we’ll never know how this team would have finished the season but should we forget about Evansville? Should we forget about the Las Vegas trip? Hell, the first game in March was a home loss to Tennessee. So again, the hype that we all created at the beginning of the year, and after an opening over Michigan State, only came back to haunt us and make us not actually appreciate what was a really good team, but rather consider them a disappointment.
Now look, everybody gets to be whatever kind of fan they want to be. But I will just continue to never understand why we must hype these UK basketball teams before they have ever played a game. Calipari plays into this often and is doing it for real this year. And maybe this team becomes a national champion and goes 38-2. But having been bit by over-hype for 5 consecutive season, excuse me for not buying it and instead letting the season play out. That way, should this team struggle in the early season, it won’t bother me as much as it bothers many of you.