Sunday, December 28, 2014

Kentucky basketball. Best ever?

That would be saying quite a mouthful and likely unjustified, at least at this point. After all, they were only runners-up in last year's NCAA tourney, having BARELY squeaked by a few teams to even reach that point. Then, typically, a few of their players jumped to the NBA. They would have been crazy not to. Having the old college spirit and being "big" men on campus is fine and dandy in it's own right, but returning for another year of campus glory when millions of guaranteed dollars are only a signature away comes with risks. Have a bad year, or worse yet, blow out a knee -- it happens -- and kiss the millions good-bye.

Kentucky is rightfully ranked #1 in the country, and it could be argued they have the best starting five in the nation as well. Yet right now, the Wildcats have something going on no other college hoops team in history (men's or women's) has ever had before. Another five players that can enter the game enmasse to replace the starters -- who are just as good as a unit.

Why substitute for a starter here and there to give them a breather when you can send in another entire fivesome to give them ALL a rest, with no drop off in talent? Even the best of the best NBA teams never had that sort of depth. Not counting "garbage time" at the end of blowout games, pro teams might use 9-10 players over the course of a game -- but when's the last time you saw one yank all five to replace them with another five that could play at the same level throughout the entire contest?  It's been said that Wildcat Team A and Wildcat Team B even practice separately to keep their respective cohesiveness as units.

Sure, they've got 6 other guys on the roster who are available in case of injury, foul trouble, or the like. But by and large, save the garbage time mentioned above, they rarely see action. No need.

Head coach John Calpari has become (in)famous for his program's reputation as a "one and done" basketball factory. To an extent that's true. Calipari is typically able to recruit cream of the crop prep stars from all over the country, and it's no great surprise some of them make the jump to the pros and the millions after only one year in Lexington. It's entirely possible, maybe probable, that several more of them will leave after the NCAA tourney next spring.

But it's not like Calipari goes out and gets ten new high school McDonald's All - Americans every year to replace the 10 one-and-doners that left. Currently, the Wildcats' roster consists of the following:

Four freshmen.
Seven sophomores.
Two juniors.
Three seniors.

Granted, the seniors will be leaving by rule after this season. Contrary to the classic movie "Animal House", one cannot be a lifer in a fraternity -- at least not remaining on a sports scholarship. They will have to take their Bachlelors' degrees out into the real world and fend for themselves. They might discover the grass is not always bluer away from their old Kentucky homies. Ahem.

Let's ignore the juniors. I have a yorkie named Junior and he's in his third year of hanging out too enjoying the life of being pampered, and nobody knows what he's going to do next either.

That leaves the eleven underclassmen, who play most of the minutes on the hardcourt. How many will leave after this season? Three? Five? Eight? Depends on how well they perform. The NBA scouts are watching.

Kentucky may or may not wind up winning the NCAA championship next spring -- they were favored last year but went down to Connecticut in the finals. Sometimes those old dudes, you know, 21 and 22 year-olds, have a few tricks of their own. And who knew that the talent of a college basketball player was not necessarily directly proportional to number of tats he has? Amazing.

How many players will the Wildcats lose after this season? Let's count them up. The three seniors. Nobody knows about juniors, whether they're yorkies or Wildcats. Let's say one out of two. Between Team A and Team B of the underclassmen, let's say half go pro. That's a total of nine. I don't want to hear about redshirts. Those are for zealots like Urban Meyer and Nick Sabin to wear. I think the likes of Bobby Knight and Woody Hayes planted those dastardly seeds decades ago. And don't get me started on how stupid the ladies make themselves look when they wear their red "power" dresses. We get it, alright.

So out of a current 16 man roster, it could well be John Calipari is going to have to replace at least half of them for next season.

But you know what? It won't be a problem. JC and his minions are master recruiters, and as long as Kentucky continues to be at or near the top of college basketball -- and no end appears to be in sight -- four and five star preps will get in line hoping for a chance to play there. Especially when they not only have a great chance to win a college championship, but also see guys only a couple years older signing lucrative NBA contracts.

And the beat goes on......

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