When it comes to Kentucky Wildcats basketball, I’m confident to the point of being unbearably cocky. And I have every reason to be, right?
Not many programs can boast the postseason record of John Calipari, his ability to top the recruiting rankings every season, and churn out the NBA lottery picks the way that he does. Heading into every season, I’m usually ready to pencil the ‘Cats in as at least an Elite Eight team.
But things are a little different this season. John Calipari is dealing with a mass exodus similar to the one he faced after his team won the national title in 2012. Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague, Terrence Jones, and Doron Lamb all opted for the NBA. Darius Miller graduated.
Out of the players Cal had returning, only Kyle Wiltjer had any kind of game time experience. Ryan Harrow sat out the previous season and was the heir to Teague at the point guard position. Cal brought in a number one recruiting class headlined by Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein, and graduate transfer Julius Mayes.
Harrow never panned out as a player and was a headcase most of the season. Goodwin was erratic and asked to play outside of his comfort zone. WCS was too raw. Poythress showed flashes of what he could be, but he never really materialized into a dominant player. Wiltjer didn’t have the capability of putting the team on his back and had difficulty guarding his opponents. Mayes did the best he could, but he wasn’t the caliber of player Cal needed. And Noel was dealt a season-ending knee injury that crushed the team.
What materialized was a recipe for a disaster that ended in a NIT loss at Robert Morris. Cal’s team was young, inexperienced and, without Noel, they lacked a true NBA lottery pick talent.
Is this teaming shaping up to be in the same kind of position?
De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Isaiah Briscoe, Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins, and now, in a bit of a surprise, Isaac Humphries are all gone. Once again Cal is going to have to replace his most important players with true freshmen. The most experienced player that is set to return is Wenyen Gabriel. The loss of Humphries is big because as the roster stands now, your center position is five-star freshman Nick Richards, Sacha Killeya-Jones, and Tai Wynyard.
Bam Adebayo is not officially gone as he will test the NBA waters but will not hire an agent. I am going to work under the assumption right now that he will not return as he has been projected as a one and done player ever since he committed to Kentucky.
With the news that Texas may be leading for five-star center Mohamed Bamba, all of a sudden, a front court that looked to be stacked may end up being once again short.
I am still all in on Bamba picking Kentucky.
Maybe Bamba chooses Texas over UK. But sometimes I think these guys over analyze situations. I like Cal vs. Shaka Smart for a recruit.— James Streble (@Round_Daddy) April 11, 2017
And Texas doesn't have 2 of Bamba's best friends on the team. So yeah, I'll stick with UK for now am I feel good about it.— James Streble (@Round_Daddy) April 11, 2017
Andy Sweeney, my ESPN 680 cohort and the co-host of the afternoon show The Midday Rush, posed the question if it is time for BBN to start panicking.
@Round_Daddy No. If they don't get Bamba AND Knox = panic. You know it.— Andy Sweeney (@TheOnlySweeney) April 11, 2017
Andy and his co-host Lachlan McLean kicked off Tuesday’s show with this question: is it time for BBN to panic because of the way things are so up in the air?
Reasons to Panic
- Calipari will more than likely have a freshman starting five with the primary backups being freshmen as well.
- If Bam stays in the draft and Bamba does indeed go to Texas, Kentucky is left without a rim protector again and an extremely thin frontcourt that doesn’t inspire much confidence.
- The SEC is going to be much more difficult that it has been in years with the emergence of Florida and South Carolina and the young talent coming into Alabama and Missouri.
- If Cal whiffs on Bamba, that’s two years in a row (Marques Bolden) didn’t get the big man he desperately wanted.
Reasons Not to Panic
- This recruiting class is still not finalized. Bamba still may commit and a shooting guard transferring from Pitt, Cam Johnson, is still considering Kentucky.
- Sophomore Bam Adebayo has the potential to be a damn beast if he continues the trajectory that we all saw at the end of the season.
- I like Quade Green a lot. He’s more like Tyler Ulis than Ryan Harrow. There will be leadership and consistency at point guard.
- I’m going to keep beating the Hamidou Diallo drum. He is as elite of a player in the country, and nobody is talking about him because he came to Kentucky early and is not considered a part of the 2017 class.
- People are sleeping on Jarred Vanderbilt as an elite prospect. Chad Ford just bumped him to the number 10 pick in the 2017 NBA draft based on his practice and performance in the various High School All-Star Games.
- Cal is coaching the USA U-19 team that will no doubt feature many of his incoming freshmen. This gives Cal extra time with his players that he wouldn’t have without this gig. Expect Green, Washington, and Vanderbilt on the team. Diallo may be on the team as well. Bamba will be on the team, it’s just a matter if Cal is coaching him as a Wildcat or as a commit elsewhere.
- In Cal We Trust
In order for me to even consider hitting the panic button, Cal will have to miss out on both Bamba and Johnson while Bam goes pro. Then I might be a little worried based on the lack of depth in the front court.
As far as the guys coming in, I really like this class. PJ Washington, along with Vanderbilt, is extremely talented and I think people are sleeping on him as well. Cal has done a nice job fillings needs as far as his guards are concerned with Shai Alexander and Jemarl Baker to go along with Diallo and Green.
How will things shake out between now and the start of the fall semester? There are still some missing pieces that need to be addressed, but BBN has the best in the business steering the ship.
Is it time to hit the panic button?
This poll is closed
No, Cal’s got this.
Not yet, but I’m close to it.
Panic Button: Engage!