Trey Lyles, a 5-star prospect from the class of 2014, announced yesterday that he was down to his final 2 schools in the recruiting process: Kentucky and Louisville. For the rivalry, you couldn’t ask for a much juicier final two list. Lyles would be a hugely important piece for both Calipari and Pitino in the 2014 class. Both coaches are still searching for that elite player to add to the roster. Lyles is highly coveted by both sides. When it comes down to Lyles’ final decision between the two schools though, which school takes the lead in most categories? Below I’ve broken down a few of the most important categories, giving the advantage to either Louisville or Kentucky (or a push).
Chance to win a national title: Push
Both Rick Pitino and John Calipari have proved within the last 2 years that they are capable of winning a national championship with the way they go about doing things. Calipari did it with a number of freshmen phenoms, mixed with a few very strong veterans. Pitino did it with a team full of veterans, not necessarily super stars. Both approaches resulted in a national championship. Both schools will only be a few years removed from winning the title.
Chance to make it to the NBA: Kentucky
It’s not even worth trying to make an argument for Louisville here. Calipari has put a large number of players in the NBA draft each year since arriving at Kentucky. He’s kept the elite players near the top, and he’s helped develop a few guys like DeAndre Liggins and Josh Harrellson into NBA prospects. Calipari has had the #1 and #2 pick in the same year. He’s put the most players in the 1st round from one school. He’s put the most players in one draft class. He can’t be stopped and if you play for him, your chances of entering the NBA draft and being drafted are as high (actually, higher) as with anyone else in the country.
Kentucky is back in the spotlight as THE program in college basketball. Kentucky is constantly pushing the envelope and the visibility of the program and the players on a national stage is only matched by North Carolina and Duke. Kentucky players are in the spotlight and have a chance to build an image while at Kentucky that they can market in the future.
Playing with other elite players: Kentucky
Rick Pitino has upped his recruiting game tremendously over the past few years, but Calipari continues to trump him each and every year. Calipari has brought in the #1 recruiting class time and time again since arriving at Kentucky. Trey Lyles will be surrounded by other elite recruits, and potentially the #1 recruiting class once again. Pitino has been losing elite players as of late as much as he has been getting commitments from them.
The fan base: Kentucky
Louisville fans have grown in intensity and passion over the years, even adopting things such as “L1C4.” But at the end of the day, Kentucky fans simply can’t be topped. Until Louisville has thousands of people camp out for Midnight madness, or completely takes over an entire arena at a conference tournament, packs an alumni game in September, etc… Kentucky will still hold the bar a little higher. Kentucky players are absolute rock stars in Lexington thanks to the adoration of the fans. Louisville might be closing the gap, but it’s still Kentucky.
Lyles is from Indianapolis, Indiana. Louisville is slightly closer, but both schools are within driving distance.
Game day atmosphere: Kentucky for tradition, Louisville for arena
I’ll give Louisville a ton of credit here for the sparkling new Yum Center. The arena is top of the line and one of the nicest in the entire country. With that said, some people prefer tradition in an arena– and in that case– Rupp Arena has the edge. Both arenas are impressive in their own right. You could call this one a push depending on what you value in an arena/atmosphere.
Chance to be “THE GUY”: Louisville
If Trey Lyles goes to Louisville, he will be the most elite player on the roster. And it probably won’t be close. Lyles can be the most talented guy on the roster. At Kentucky, Lyles still might be the most elite player on the roster, but plenty of other top players will be surrounding him and he might not be “THE GUY.” Calipari teams don’t usually operate that way.
Likelihood to play early: Kentucky
Calipari has always had talented freshmen who play right away. Not only do they play, but they play a lot and they are often given a ton of responsibility. In the past, Pitino has been a little more reserved early on with his young players. Pitino teams usually have a slew of veterans and until the young talented players have a little more time in the system, he sometimes gives the nod to the older guys early.
It’s gotta be Kentucky, right?