Just as Kentucky football is getting underway amid such hype and promise, it's time to remember that in just a few short weeks, practice will begin for men's and women's college basketball. I need not remind anyone that the University of Kentucky is the most storied and arguably most successful men's college basketball program in the country. Despite the excitement of this season, it's basketball that takes the Big Blue Nation's fan excitement to the gates of delirium.
This recruiting class is John Calipari's magnum opus, certainly the greatest recruiting class in the era of the Internet, and arguably the greatest recruiting class in the history of college basketball. Calipari has brought in a group with no less than four, and possibly as many as seven NBA first-round draft picks. Kentucky set the mark with five first-rounders in 2011, and is very likely to eclipse that mark next year in the 2014 NBA Draft.
But before we get to the end of the season, let's get to the beginning. The hype of this class, and the coming projections that the Wildcats will once more stand astride the world of college basketball this year, is well deserved. Sight unseen, this team has everything a coach could want in spades. Let's run down the list:
2013-14 Kentucky is a huge team in terms of size. A projected starting lineup of Willie Cauley-Stein (7'0", 244#), Julius Randle (6'9", 240#), Alex Poythress (6'7", 240#), Andrew Harrison (6'5", 205#) and Aaron Harrison (6'5", 210#) would not only likely be the tallest, longest men's basketball team in the nation, but also among the heaviest and strongest. How many teams in America average 6'5", 207# in their backcourt? I would venture to say none.
This team is by far Calipari's deepest, even deeper than the 2010-11 team when it comes to quality. The second group of Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, James Young, Derek Willis, and you pick between Jarrod Polson and Dominique Hawkins would be a starting lineup at almost every other Division I school in America.
This is by far the most talented freshman class, top to bottom, in Calipari's tenure at Kentucky, including the dynamic 2011-12 class that helped win a national title that year. With the consensus #2, #5, #6, #9 #9 (Young and Johnson are tied) and #18 out of the RCSI Final 100, this class isn't #1 by a little, but by a lot. Here's some numbers for you:
|Year||Top Class School||RSCI points|
Kentucky's 557 points in 2013 obliterated the previous record held by North Carolina in 2006, 429 points.
Kansas comes in second this year with an astonishing, but still-insufficient 411 points. As you can see, this isn't even close.
This years team, like 2011-12, contains key returners in Poythress and Cauley-Stein as well as seniors Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson who provide not only depth, but valuable experience. Polson proved last year that he could compete at this level. Poythress and Cauley-Stein are returning starters. Hood has seen playing time every year he has been at UK.
Summing it all up
Yes, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, this team has it all. It appears destined for greatness in more ways than just being the most talented class in NCAA history. This is the kind of talent that Kentucky basketball used to field in the greatest days of the Adolph Rupp era, and whether our friends down I-64 like it or not, it appears that Kentucky will be the team mentioned in connection with the D-word.
Welcome to the New Age, and it's name is Kentucky.