With five of the big seven returning from last season’s NCAA runner-up squad, plus the addition of four Mickey D’s All-Americans, it’s easy to get caught up in the pre-summer hype of the 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats. I’m guilty. You’re guilty. We’re all guilty.
But Mike DeCourcy kept it real this morning in The Sporting News, reminding us that last year’s team also had enormous expectations and they were far from dominant. That team was a couple of points away from losing in the Round of 32, then again in the Sweet 16, and the Elite Eight, and the Final Four.
Yes, next year’s team has even more depth, but as DeCourcy writes, depth only goes so far:
With five players returning who averaged double-figure minutes — plus reserves Marcus Lee and Hawkins, who produced important moments in the tournament — Calipari will have his most experienced Kentucky team. It certainly will be his deepest. To call this his most talented, though, is to ignore the absence of someone who stands out immediately as a game-changer. Barring extraordinary development from one of the returning Wildcats, there might not be anyone who projects as a first-team All-American.
Depth can have value, as UK learned when Lee filled in for injured Willie Cauley-Stein from the Sweet 16 into the Final Four. It also has the potential to cause chemistry issues, as was the case with North Carolina in 1993-94. This past year’s Wildcats lost to a team that used an eight-man rotation. That’s most often how it goes. It was more important for UConn to have a transcendent player on its side.
With plenty of stats to back up his hesitant take on next year’s Cats, DeCourcy does a good job of playing devil’s advocate this morning.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get back to building my 2015 National Championship shrine in my guest room.