We’ve nearly reached the doldrums of the summer sports season. For college basketball writers, they call this season, “Write a story about Kentucky to generate traffic” season. First at-bat is ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.
Goodman got the ball rolling with a piece titled, “Is this the biggest challenge John Calipari has faced at Kentucky?” A legitimate question that I believe has already been asked before, the novel approach is a stat we hear after every season: “Calipari has to replace (fill in the blank with a large number) percent of his scoring.”
However, before Mr. Goodman shared the “staggering” number of points Calipari will have to replace, he mentioned many of Calipari’s former Kentucky teams. One that was conveniently left off Goodman’s list was the 2012-13 team.
In at least past 50 yrs, only one with less % returning was 2012-13 NIT team. But Cal's other teams have done better with little experience. pic.twitter.com/iOVnlKlwGm
— bigbluehistory (@bigbluehistory) May 27, 2017
In 2013, Calipari lost seven of his top eight scorers from a National Championship team. The incoming recruiting class featured Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein and Julius Mays. That’s it.
Still, a team that relied on Kyle Wiltjer, Goodwin and Mays to produce points would’ve been a five-seven NCAA Tournament seed if not for a torn ACL in Noel’s left knee.
This year’s Kentucky team will have five incoming McDonald’s All-Americans, two returning Top 25 2016 forwards, a shooter, a slasher and the biggest story from the NBA Combine, a two-guard with a 6-11 wingspan and the second-highest vertical leap ever recorded. Ten players will compete for playing time.
John Calipari will face challenges. As Goodman noted, perimeter shooting and an improved SEC will undoubtedly be obstacles. Figuring out a suitable rotation might be the most difficult challenge to navigate, but it’s nothing he hasn’t done before.
Is this Calipari’s youngest team? Yes. Is this his most difficult rebuild? No. If you’re looking for that, just turn back the clock five years.