At this point, saying Kentucky was the biggest winner of the underclassmen draft deadline is like saying Rich Brooks enjoys the occasional tomato, but it’s Monday, which means the national media is recapping who went and who stayed after the deadline last night. Both CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish and ESPN’s Andy Katz put the Cats right at the top of the winners list.
The Wildcats entered this offseason with eight prospects who could’ve reasonably declared for the NBA Draft, but only two of them (Julius Randle and James Young) actually did, which is a better outcome for UK than most predicted. As recently as early March, almost nobody thought Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison or Willie Cauley-Stein would return for another year of college, but each is returning for another year of college, and the result means UK will — you ready for this? — have nine McDonald’s All-Americans on its roster, and either nine or 10 dudes (depending on what you think of Tyler Ulis) who project as NBA players someday. Needless to say, that’s why the Wildcats will be No. 1 in all reputable preseason rankings — because they have tons of talent and enough experience to avoid the early speed bumps they endured last season before marching to the national title game.
Kentucky: The Wildcats could have been starting from scratch again next season. The players would have had plenty of reason to bolt after making the national title game. But only two did, and the Wildcats can absorb the losses of Julius Randle and James Young. The decisions by Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee to stay, coupled with newcomers Trey Lyles and Karl Towns Jr., give Kentucky a deeper and more versatile frontcourt. The return of guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison means coach John Calipari doesn’t need to restart his perimeter. Kentucky is probably the only program in the country that can be in the winners column by losing two lottery picks because of the NBA draft-level depth of the freshman and sophomore classes.
Other winners? Parrish lists Wisconsin and Louisville, while Katz’s list is much longer, and includes Wisconsin, UNC, Louisville, Arkansas, Nebraska, West Virginia, Oregon, and Utah. Of course, if you ask a Louisville fan, the Cards are at the top, and Montrezl Harrell once ate seventeen raw eggs before running a four-minute mile and saving three babies on the way to church.
Cats, Cats, Cats.