Kentucky Basketball: Are The Tar Heels A Better Fit Than The Wildcats? Not Likely.

USA TODAY Sports

Is Andrew Wiggins better served joining the North Carolina Tar Heels or the Kentucky Wildcats. We analyze this question.

An article by Anthony Lenahan over at Rant Sports argues that the North Carolina Tar Heels is the best destination for Andrew Wiggins. His reasoning boils down to this:

  1. No star player wants to be on a team that can’t compete for the NCAA Tournament championship;

  2. North Carolina is a truly historic basketball school;

  3. Reggie Bullock leaving gives Wiggins the best chance to shine as a player;

  4. There are no players behind Wiggins to take minutes from him;

  5. Wiggins wouldn’t get "the attention he deserves" at Kentucky.

First of all, let’s just stipulate points 1-4. After all, most of those are simply facts with the exception of 1 and 2. Both, however, are an opinion I think most college basketball fans share, even though Kentucky, Duke, UCLA, Kansas and Indiana all fit the description at least equally well for point 2.

Which brings us to point five, which is really the only argument anyone has ever advanced as to why Wiggins should chose someplace other than Kentucky. At UK, Wiggins will be competing for playing time with his peers, and he’ll have to share minutes here. That seems indisputable to some degree, although the exact magnitude of that degree is unknown. After all, Calipari is fairly famous for playing starters big minutes, along with a couple of subs. He’d have to deviate significantly from that next year in order for Wiggins to see substantially fewer minutes than he would at other schools.

But for the sake of argument, let’s just stipulate that Wiggins’ minutes would be reduced at Kentucky as well. Despite Calipari’s tendencies, he’s never had a team this deep, and Calipari is also known for adjusting his strategy based on the players he has available.

So does that validate Lenahan’s argument? I say no, for the following reasons:

  1. Wiggins’ abilities are already well known to the pros. He’s likely to be the top draft pick based solely on his body of work in the AAU, and his proven athleticism, no matter who he plays for. In addition, he'll get virtually the same amount of exposure at all his remaining schools, although his role would vary somewhat in that exposure;

  2. Assuming #1 is true, would Wiggins actually be unhappy not being "the man?" His high school career suggests not, since he was more of a complimentary player at Huntington prep. Yes, he occasionally put up huge numbers, but he played within a system and seems comfortable doing that;

  3. Also assuming #1, would it not be better to train and play daily against the best talent available, and be certain to compete for an NCAA championship, than to shine like a superstar in a school with a less talented team?

It seems too facile by half to say that all players at Wiggins’ level are looking to stand out from the crowd. If that were so, how could Kentucky recruit a class that contains six McDonald’s All-Americans? It should be impossible to recruit so many high-profile players if that argument holds sway.

The assumption that all this talent will prevent, rather than facilitate, the growth and development of Wiggins as a player is simply not borne out by history. What is supported by history is that Roy Williams is a coach that will put pressure on players to return to college rather than give them genuinely honest assessments, and facilitate their movement to the next level. John Calipari, on the other hand, is famous for his willingness to push players on to the next level if they're ready, rather than having them stay and risk injury.

So my argument would look like this:

  1. Wiggins has a chance to complete a truly historic class at Kentucky;

  2. Wiggins has the best chance to win a national title at Kentucky;

  3. Wiggins knows Calipari’s record of getting players drafted high;

  4. Wiggins' draft position is unlikely to be affected by his minutes, or role on the team. You can't be drafted higher than #1, and Anthony Davis went #1 despite getting fewer shots than several of his teammates;

  5. Wiggins will have better competition day in and day out at Kentucky, and will greatly benefit from it;

  6. All the above more than makes up for the fact that he will be a star among stars, rather than "the man."

Ultimately, my view is that all of these things, both the ones I laid out and the points made by Lenahan, are secondary considerations. Having watched recruiting carefully over a number of years, the two biggest factors in most recruits’ decision are:

  • Which coach do they feel most comfortable with;

  • Are they comfortable with the kind of game the coach plays, and;

  • Are their parents, guardians, or other confidants controlling the decision.

Those will be the big factors. History, competition for playing time, etc. will all be secondary. Recruits at Wiggins' level have universally expressed their satisfaction with Coach Cal's style, so the only real considerations left is his comfort with the coaching staff and role of his parents in the decision.

If his parents are controlling the decision and/or have reservations about Kentucky, that could override Wiggins' desire to play here. We have seen this before with Stacey Poole, and we have seen the opposite with the Harrison twins, who's father favored Maryland. In short, we don't know who's opinion carries more weight in the family, and Wiggins isn't talking.

If it comes down to the parents, it will likely be Florida St. If Wiggins' parents have some major objection to Kentucky and Wiggins doesn't like Florida St., it could be UNC or the Kansas Jayhawks as compromise candidates.

But if it comes down to coaches, I really, really like our chances.

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