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Could Duke Turmoil Benefit John Calipari and Kentucky Wildcats?

The failure of the pre-season National Champions could pay dividends towards the ‘Cats.

Jon Lopez, Nike

Full disclosure: I hate the Duke Blue Devils. I hate them worse than the Louisville Cardinals.

And honestly, it's not even close. Why? I could write an entire post on that topic alone, but the gist of it is that Duke gets away with much more than the rest of college basketball (excluding UNC) and the media fanboy worship is vomit inducing, not to mention Grayson Allen...

At the start of the season, just about every college basketball analyst in the country was ready to hand Duke the trophy. There was 40-0 talk in March of 2016. Every expert at Sports Illustrated picked them to go to the Final Four (Not one picked UK, FYI).

Returning junior Grayson Allen was tabbed as the pre-season player of the year. Duke was declared a "super team" because of their mix of veterans and their five-star freshmen.

What's happened since the most hyped pre-season team in history actually started playing basketball? They have lost five games, four out of the last seven, Grayson Allen lost his mind on national TV and was suspended, Coach K had back surgery and hasn't coached a game since the first week of January, and K just banned the team from the locker room and wearing Duke apparel.

And how about those freshmen studs? Unfortunately, Harry Giles, Marques Bolden, and Jayson Tatum all started the season off on the bench due to injuries. The talking heads all commented about how Duke will start clicking and dominating once their star freshmen return.

But that's not what has happened. Giles, who had ACL surgery before even playing a second at Duke, hasn't lived up to the hype he had achieved before he committed to Duke. In fact, Giles NBA Draft stock has fallen and continues to fall. It's arguable that he should have sat out the year.

Bolden barely plays. He is averaging 9.3 minutes per game, 2.4 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 0.2 blocks. Clearly, he hasn't reached his potential.

Jayson Tatum is having success but has come across as a player that forces shots, doesn't share the ball, and likes to whine at just about every call lobbied against him.

To sum up their freshman year thus far, the trio of Giles, Tatum, and Bolden have had to deal with: Grayson Allen antics, losing, no Coach K, Jeff Caple incompetence, and public shaming. I doubt the three signed up for any of that.

How does the Kentucky Wildcats factor in this? Mohamed Bamba and Kevin Knox, that's how.

Bamba is a five-star center/forward that is ranked as a consensus top four recruit in the country. He is listed as the sixth player selected in the NBA 2018 mock draft according to Bamba could make a case to be the top draft pick before it is all over.

Knox is a five-star small forward that is a consensus top-10 recruit in the country. He is listed as the seventh player selected in the NBA 2018 mock draft according to He is a player that is as comfortable working inside as he is outside.

What do they have in common other than the fact that are both elite players? Both were considered heavy Duke leans, and now Kentucky is surging. Bamba visited campus officially last weekend, and by all indications, it went very well. And it is worth noting that he is close with Kentucky commit Quade Green and player Hamidou Diallo. Right now the Crystal Ball has him 50/50 between Duke and Kentucky.

Knox is taking his official visit to Kentucky this weekend as the ‘Cats look to take on the Kansas Jayhawks. He could be the crown on the jewel of the class. The Crystal Ball has him 82% going to Duke with UK at 12%.

But the question is this: will the collapse of Duke, if it continues, have an effect on where the two end up and will that ultimately be Kentucky? The season's ending has yet to be written for the Blue Devils, and the ‘Cats are loaded in the front court, but it would be silly to count John Calipari out of anything. He can make it work with any amount of players.

One would think that all of the turmoil surrounding the Duke program would affect recruiting, especially when they talk to the freshmen on the team now. Think about it, who would be more complimentary of their experiences at this point, the Kentucky freshmen or the Duke freshmen?

Neither prospect will announce until the spring signing period. But if the teams that covet them the most continue to trend in their current directions, you have to like the chances of John Calipari.