NIT bid for the Kentucky Wildcats this week? No problem. All teams have down years, right?
Despite missing out on the “Big Dance”, John Caliapri and his Kentucky Wildcats are poised to make some big noise tomorrow. In the form of 2013 recruit Julius Randle. Or so says ESPN’s Dave Telep. In a pay Insider article, Telep says that the race is too close to be called between Kentucky and Kansas, yet the momentum seems to be in Kentucky’s corner:
Wouldn’t it be just like Kentucky to make big headlines this week after missing the NCAA tournament? On Wednesday, No. 3 overall recruit and No. 1 senior power forward Julius Randle (Dallas/Prestonwood Christian) will announce his college decision live on ESPNU at approximately 1:15 p.m. ET.
On the bubble are Kentucky, Kansas, Texas and Florida. Forget the fact that Texas and UK missed the NCAA tournament this year — this is a loaded field of finalists.
On Sunday night, I checked in one final time with momma Randle, Carolyn Kyles.
No. 3 recruit Julius Randle is down to Kentucky, Kansas, Texas and Florida.
“He said he’s still thinking about it,” Kyles said. “We’re going to sit down and go over some things and go from there. I’m sure he probably has an idea, but he hasn’t said anything.
“I’m just ready to get it over with. He wanted to shut his phone down the other day to all the last-minute things. I’m ready to get it over with. It’s been a long road. It’s been a great journey.”
If you listen to the whispers, you hear Kentucky. They aren’t shouts, they’re whispers — and for good reason. The Wildcats are sitting on an historic recruiting class that is one player away from relegating Michigan’s famed “Fab Five” to second-class citizen status. Give John Calipari Randle or No. 1 prospect Andrew Wiggins and there is no debate. Kentucky’s haul would be the greatest class ever.
Kentucky travels to Moon Township, PA to face the Robert Morris Colonials in the opening round of the NIT. Larry Vaught has some stats about the Colonials and from the look of things, we can expect a three point barrage from the Colonials:
Robert Morris (23-10) failed in its quest to win the Northeast Conference Tournament when it lost to Mount St. Mary’s in the tourney semifinals. The Colonials were on a hot 3-point shooting streak (60-for-150) going into that semifinal contest before cooling off. However, the Colonials have made at least 10 3-pointers in 14 games this season.
The Colonials have six players averaging 8.5 points or more per game and leading scorer Karvel Anderson (12.7 per game) comes off the bench. Junior guard Coron Williams (9.2 points per game) has over 200 career 3-pointers. Forward Lucky Jones (11.9 points per game) has scored in double figures in 14 of the last 16 games. He’s also the team’s top rebounder at 6.4 per game. Jones has 1,575 points, good for fifth place on the school’s career scoring list, and 543 assists, second on the school’s career list. Russell Johnson has 1,178 points, 15th best all-time, and 738 rebounds, third best and only 13 off the all-time school record.
Robert Morris is eighth nationally in 3-pointers made per game, 30th in 3-point percentage, 31st in free throw percentage and 14th in steals per game.
Robert Morris, which won the Northeast Conference regular-season championship, lost in the conference tourney in large part because seniors Jones and Johnson were a combined 4-for-24 from the field, including 0-for-8 from 3-point range. The Colonials lost 79-73 at Arkansas and 61-59 at Xavier during the regular season.
One of the big themes of Kentucky season has been the team effort or the lack of that was displayed at times. Ken Howlett from A Sea of Blue offers some perspective and compares this Kentucky team to what the effort he has seen at other levels of basketball this year:
One of the many joys of calling high school games is to witness the level of competitive fire the typical high school kid possesses. Every game is life or death. Every game is played as if it’s the last time the player will grace the hard wood — Diving on the floor for loose balls, vigilantly battling for every rebound, and laying out to tip a pass or an opponent’s shot are all common occurrences.
The contrast, as the basketball season moved along, between what I was seeing on the high school hardwood versus what I saw when UK played, became alarmingly stark. Kentucky’s lack of effort, and the indifference displayed on the part of some of the players stood out as pathetic. Oh, it wasn’t every game. But it was enough games to drive UK out of the national picture and into the outhouse (at least for now).
That’s the game we play as UK fans, though. We have to be able to accept the bad that sometimes comes along with the great. With Calipari bringing in top rated recruiting classes on a yearly basis, it’s not unreasonable to expect that eventually he is going to “miss” on a few of the top ranked players (read: Cal will bring to UK a player who lacks heart, the will to win, and is “hard to coach”).
And when that happens, we wish them well on their way out, and anxiously await the arrival of new blood.