As a new season draws near, Kentucky basketball fans are as eager and excited to watch the Wildcats cut down the nets in the first week of April as they have been during the 7 previous campaigns under John Calipari.
Though BBN is still anxiously awaiting title No. 9, recent preseason polls ranking UK as high as No. 2 do nothing to dampen the spirit. And they shouldn’t.
Insert here, however, a word of caution.
These last 7 marvelous years have produced 5 Elite Eights, including 4 Final Fours and a 2012 National Championship, along with a string of SEC regular season and SEC Tourney titles. Yet, since 2012, UK has fallen short of adding No. 9.
Those Final Four appearances pushed Kentucky into that “Gold Standard” category that Calipari loves to reference in any public forum where there’s a podium for him to preach to the world of top blue-chip recruits (with ESPN cameras rolling, I might add).
While there are some who bemoan the fact that UK has only 1 NCAA title to show for these 7 wonderful seasons, one must be reminded that titles don’t come easy, even with great teams. A little luck never hurts.
Over the past half-century, there has been no greater UK run than Calipari’s 4 Final Four appearances in a 5-year run.
Calipari’s ability to recruit at the level he has in the past 7 years is not only phenomenal, but a testament to his 24/7 grinding, and his marketing degree, which seems to create a new approach every few months. There aren’t many tricks he hasn’t mastered since arriving in Lexington.
Names like Anthony Davis, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Julius Randle, Jamal Murray, Karl-Anthony Towns and Devin Booker already make headlines in the NBA.
It won’t be long before this season’s heralded No. 1 recruiting class of De’Aaron Fox, Sacha Killeya-Jones, Wenyen Gabriel, Edrice Bam Adebayo, Malik Monk and Brad Calipari sends a new batch to the NBA.
First, they’ll join the likes of Isaiah Briscoe, Derek Willis, Isaac Humphries, Dominique Hawkins, Tai Wynyard and Mychal Mulner, among others, to attempt to claim that elusive No. 9 banner.
Calipari boasts that he really likes this team and suggests that by February, this version of UK basketball will be the best defensive team in America.
Never scared to face elite competition during November/December, UK will take on the likes of Michigan State, UCLA, North Carolina and Louisville before wading into the SEC. For good measure, UK will host Kansas in late January in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.
Duke looms as the overall favorite to win the Final Four next April in Phoenix, but a few clubs, like North Carolina, Oregon, Wisconsin, Oregon, Virginia, Arizona, Xavier, Arizona, Purdue, and defending champion Villanova, eye their own “Road To The Final Four.”
And you might want to add Kentucky.
Member of Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame. Former co-host of UK Radio Network's pregame football & basketball shows. Founder & former publisher of The Cats' Pause. Former publisher of East Kentucky Voice. Former editor of The Hazard Herald. Winner of 41 awards from Kentucky Press Association & Kentucky Weekly Press Association. Winner of 1977 U. S. Basketball Writers Association sports feature of year. Native of Hazard, Ky.