Don't lie: you were ready to pack in the recruiting season.
Hey, so was I. After all, this has been one of the strangest classes in memory. We watched and five-star recruit after five-star recruit chose Purdue, UNLV, Cal, and Mississippi State over teams like Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, Kansas, and Michigan State.
So why would we think that five-star combo guard Jamal Murray would be any different? It was between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Oregon Ducks for the young man. Common sense said Oregon. Of course he would follow the trend and add to this bizarre class.
But then he whipped off his Canadian flag cape and revealed a Wildcat shirt and tie. He burned us. He burned us all, but Kentucky will take it.
What Does This Mean?
It means never throw dirt on John Calipari. Ever. Time after time he reminds us that he is the unquestioned best in the business when it comes to recruiting. He doesn't pull any punches with these kids with his message: nothing is given here, everything is earned, this place isn't for everyone, but if you come and play for me, you're going to be on a great team and your NBA dreams will come true.
John Calipari will again have the number one recruiting class in the nation with Murray, Isaiah Briscoe, Skal Labisierre, Mychal Mulder, and Charles Matthews. He should also have the preseason No. 1 team, but more on that in a bit.
What Will This Team Look Like?
Way too early prediction for starting spots:
PG- Tyler Ulis
G- Isaiah Briscoe
G- Jamal Murray
F- Alex Poythress
F- Skal Labisierre
I think Ulis will be the primary ball handler and the leader of the team, but Murray and Briscoe will be shooting guards/ wing players. This is what Cal is talking about when he is discussing "positionless" players.
The addition of another wing player is going to open up doors for Poythress. He is going to be allowed to play his true position at power forward and he will match up nightmare for every other power forward in the nation.
As for Skal, the young man better get his hops in check because he is going to be in lob heaven. Kentucky Will be able to space out the floor with three guys that can shoot from the perimeter and drive to the basket at will. This should open up a lot of one-on-one opportunities down low for Skal and Poythress.
Skal is also a very good mid-range jump shooter. Teams are going to find it extremely difficult to guard Kentucky. Think Golden State Warriors with an extremely athletic big man. I'm not saying these guys are going to shoot like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, but the offense will be similar. Welcome back, dribble drive.
As for the other players, Marcus Lee will still see plenty of minutes as he will be backing up both Poythress and Labisierre. There are still questions about Alex's health, so Lee may very well be in that starting spot at the beginning of the season.
Charles Matthews and Mychal Mulder will be called upon primarily to spell the guards in a rotating manner. Either Briscoe, Murray, or Ulis can all play the point, so there will be a point guard on the floor at all times.
Dominique Hawkins may not find as much time as once thought, but Derrick Willis will still be an important piece to the puzzle. He could step in and play the power forward position and Marcus Lee could play center. I still think this will be a big season for Willis to prove himself and earn some big minutes.
What About the Rest of College Basketball?
Here's the deal: there are no super teams this season. Every team has their flaws and gaps. Last year, we all knew going in that Kentucky, the Wisconsin Badgers, the Duke Blue Devils, and the Arizona Wildcats were all loaded and that one of them would win the national title. Remember how that played out? Yeah, it still hurts but it played out exactly like we thought.
If we look at the landscape now, Maryland and UNC were previously your favorites to be preseason number one. Now with the addition of Murray, I think the ‘Cats pull into that spot. Duke, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Louisville, and Arizona all lost big pieces and didn't really fill their spots like Kentucky did. Kansas has some key guys returning and pretty good recruiting class, but they don't scare me. Honestly, no teams in college basketball are all that scary.
This team will lose along the way as there are going to be some really tough tests early in the non-conference schedule. John Calipari is going to figure out his rotation, which won't exceed seven or eight guys, depending on any number of variables.
In short, I feel very good about Kentucky contending for a national title and returning to the Final Four.