2009 - 2010 Kentucky Wildcats Basketball Preview
by Paul Grossinger
Now that the tournament is over and we move towards the NBA draft, the inevitable question has to be asked: which teams will be next years' cream of the crop? As teams like NCAA tournament champion North Carolina expect to mourn the loss of several key starters to the NBA (or maybe Lithuania Tyler’s case), others have room for great optimism.
With the hiring of John Calipari, Kentucky seems to be one of the schools that has reason to be ecstatic. First off, as we all known, Kentucky fans don't even know what the NIT is so this year's appearance (and loss) there was deeply embarrassing. As a result, the general perception is that the program has nowhere to go but up.
Lets be honest: that’s true. A loss in the NIT quarterfinals is about as bad as its going to get for Kentucky. This isn't Florida International were talking about after all (sorry Isaiah I just couldn't resist). They will improve because Calipari brings them both a great coaching system and exceptional recruiting ability. If Calipari can get UMass and Memphis to the Final Four, he can certainly bring Kentucky there.
That’s all pretty obvious though. What isn’t obvious is that Kentucky is one of those teams that could make a 2008 Celtics-like turnaround because of the guys that Calipari can bring in immediately. Even though they underperformed as a team under Billy Gillespie, Kentucky already has two NBA caliber players in Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson. Though each are exploring their draft potential, the possibility of dropping to the second round combined with the allure of playing for Calipari should bring them both back for their senior seasons. In addition to that, DeMarcus Cousins, considered the top center prospect in high school, has already declared his intention to follow Calipari to Kentucky. When you throw in top wingman Xavier Henry, who is leaning the same way, Kentucky projects to field a starting group that would feature four future NBA first-round picks.
But, for all us Kentucky fans from the SEC, it gets even better. Calipari is reportedly also the leader in the rat race to recruit John Wall; the high school senior point guard who is considered the best overall prospect for the 2010 NBA Draft. NBA Scouts have called him a “Derrick Rose clone” and, considering Calipari’s success with the soon-to-be Rookie of the Year, one would guess where Wall will go. After all, its hard to turn down the prestige of Kentucky, especially when the Wildcats are coached by the best developer of point guards in the college game.
So, after the most embarrassing season in recent memory, Kentucky fans have great reason to hope. If they do indeed field a lineup of Wall, Meeks, Henry, Patterson, and Cousins, they are likely to go from NIT also-rans to favorites to win the National Title. And, even if they miss out on Henry or Wall (or even both) they should at least make something of a run in the tournament. After all, no matter what, there’s nowhere to go but up.
Here's our updated 2011 Kentucky Wildcats Basketball page.