In what has been a down SEC for a few years now, it appears as though things are starting to look up once again. Maybe not up to when Mississippi State had Erick Dampier or Arkansas had Corliss Williamson and Scotty Thurman but much better than in the past four (4) or so seasons. Call it an evolution of coaches, philosophies, players, or all of the above but no matter which way you slice it, John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats remain seated atop the SEC and the remainder of college basketball in the 2013-2014 season. Gary Parrish explains.
Would it be wrong to put five Kentucky players on the All-SEC team?
I know it would never be voted that way.
But, still, would it be wrong?
I ask because I genuinely believe that Kentucky might have the SEC’s best player at all five traditional positions, which is a testament to the recruiting class John Calipari just enrolled. It’s also why the Wildcats are the obvious pick to win the league.
But which schools will be UK’s biggest challengers?
Can anybody seriously push the Wildcats?
Here’s a preview of the SEC:
“Everybody is going to pick Kentucky. You should. What [John Calipari] has there is crazy. But don’t sleep on Florida, and I don’t even care if Chris Walker gets eligible. I don’t think they need him because they’re so deep up front, and the guards are good enough. Billy [Donovan] can with a championship with this team. I really believe that.”
Projected Order of Finish
Undeniable NBA talent is the most important ingredient to winning any kind of championship in this sport, and nobody has more undeniable NBA talent than Kentucky. The Wildcats are blessed with a pro point guard (Andrew Harrison), a pro shooting guard (Aaron Harrison), a pro wing (James Young), two pro forwards (Julius Randle, Alex Poythress), and three pro bigs (Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee). So good luck, John Calipari, trying to find minutes for everybody. That said, the coaches who are really going to need luck are the ones who have to try to match Kentucky player for player because nobody can match Kentucky player for player. The stated goal in Lexington is to not only win a national title but also try to win every single game on the schedule. And though perfection is not something I’m likely to predict (for this or any other college basketball team ever), you’d be wise to avoid dismissing it as impossible because it’s a realistic goal for a roster loaded with this many diverse and future millionaires.
Our Preseason All-SEC team
Our Preseason SEC Player of the Year
Julius Randle, Kentucky
Randle is an aggressive and explosive power forward who can step away from the basket but is better dominating around it. On a team of future pros, he’s the best prospect. If anybody besides Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins is the first pick of the 2014 NBA Draft, it’ll probably be him.
Our Preseason SEC Newcomer of the Year
Julius Randle, Kentucky
Randle is, like most of Kentucky’s top talent, a freshman. Did I mention that yet? If not, now you know … and understand why he’s the Newcomer of the Year, too.
Our Preseason SEC Coach of the Year
John Calipari, Kentucky
Last season was a rough season for a variety of reasons as Calipari failed to make the Elite Eight — or even the NCAA tournament — for the first time as Kentucky’s coach. But there’s no reason to think another disappointing year is on tap. Calipari has the pro point guard he was missing last season. So he should win at least 30 games for the seventh time in the past nine seasons, and he might just make a serious run at 40 victories.
Three Numbers to Know
6: That’s the number of McDonald’s All-Americans John Calipari signed from the Class of 2013. It’s a record.
9: That’s the number of losses Auburn took last season in games that were separated by just one possession in the final two minutes. Turn those around, and Tony Barbee will have turned things around.
10: That’s the number of 2013 McDonald’s All-Americans who are now on SEC campuses. Six are at Kentucky. Two are at Florida. Arkansas and LSU got one each.
So Kelly Oubre, Jr. opted to ply his trade for the Kansas Jayhawks. Good for him. I don’t care what factors played into his decision but his father, Kelly Oubre, Sr. decided some of that information was important. Those comments came out as a dig against John Calipari’s “one and done” prowess but the insinuations are incorrect and unfair.
In case you missed it, Kelly Oubre Sr., whose son Kelly Jr. committed to Kansas over Kentucky on Tuesday, said one of the reasons his son picked the Jayhawks is because the player can leave the program on his own terms.
In speaking with the Lawrence Journal-World, Oubre Sr. said: “Coach (Bill) Self doesn’t kick you out if you are not ready. I don’t care too much for it (one-and-done) because if you look at it over the last couple drafts, the success of the guys one-and-done is few and far between. Every once in a while you find guys who can make it through. I’m more concerned about his education after maybe a two-year stint or three-year stint. How close is he to that degree and having a greater business mind going into the next level, whatever that is? I think the first year in college as well as the pros, maybe two, is a learning curve. That learning curve can be cut considerably if he stayed and developed in college.”
So reading between the lines, Oubre Sr. thinks Wildcats coach John Calipari forces his players out after one season so he can reload for the following class. Anyone else find those comments off-base?
Kentucky players themselves are the ones who make the decisions on whether or not they’re ready to enter the NBA Draft. If Calipari booted everyone after a year, would Alex Poythress have returned this season? Or what about Terrence Jones, who himself came back for a second season before becoming the No. 18 pick in the 2012 draft? And what about 2014 Wildcats recruit Tyler Ulis, a point guard who may stay four seasons in Kentucky (at least if he’s not recruited over)?
On top of that, Calipari himself has said he’s not a fan of the one-and-done rule, and is hoping to use his position as a new NABC board member to change it.
Oubre Sr. said it’s possible that his son plays more than one year of college basketball, and that’s great for Kansas. But it’s hard to see where he wouldn’t have had that opportunity at Kentucky if he wanted it.