John Calipari is the master of his craft and while many have questioned his scheduling motivations, especially when the IU series was cancelled and we took a year off from UNC, the Kentucky Wildcats out of conference schedule this year is vexing. Playing the likes of Michigan State, North Carolina, Baylor, and Louisville goes a long way in shutting up the naysayers. And to make things more interesting, Coach Cal is putting together a 4 team tourney that will begin next season (2014-2015) and will feature North Carolina, UCLA, Ohio State, and of course the Kentucky Wildcats. Of those four (4) schools, one doesn’t appear to fit but we shouldn’t forget the 1960 OSU squad that featured some of the game’s greats, including John Havlicek.
Kentucky coach John Calipari is close to completing another type of Champions Classic with three of the more iconic programs — North Carolina, UCLA and Ohio State — to match the current one the Wildcats are in with Duke, Kansas and Michigan State.
According to multiple sources, the four-team, doubleheader event with UK, UNC, UCLA and Ohio State would follow the same format of the current Champions Classic with a three-year rotation of matchups and sites.
The event would begin in the 2014-15 season at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, then move to Indianapolis before a third year in Las Vegas. Matchups for the event are to be determined.
This is the third year of the Champions Classic, which began in 2011 in New York, went to Atlanta last season and will be at the United Center in Chicago on Nov. 12. Kentucky will play Michigan State, and Duke will take on Kansas. All four teams have committed to continuing the series with a new three-year rotation in 2014.
UCLA coach Steve Alford confirmed the Bruins are in the event, but Ohio State coach Thad Matta didn’t say whether the Buckeyes had been locked in yet. However, a source said Kentucky has firm commitments from all three schools.
Kentucky is in the midst of a home-and-home series with North Carolina. This season’s game will be Dec. 14 at Chapel Hill, with a return game in 2014 in Lexington. The expectation would be that in the year Kentucky is supposed to play North Carolina — not in the first year of the event — they would take a year or two off from that series.
Kentucky’s nonconference schedule in the coming years would include the annual series with Louisville, a game from each of these two Champions Classic-type events, North Carolina and a Big 12-SEC Challenge game.
This season has started off with a bang in Big Blue Madness. We saw the talent showcased of our stud Frosh class and how well they mix with the veterans on the team. We enjoy unprecedented depth and the outrageous expectation of and undefeated (40-0) National Championship season. This is why we love Kentucky and John Calipari. He thrives in this crucible and has embraced the Big Blue Nation for going on five (5) years now. But if he is to win his second National Championship, he will rely heavily on said stud Frosh class so it’s interesting to see who will be their perceived “weakest link.” Bleacher Report has Ryan Curi’s article naming Marcus Lee as the “star freshman who will struggle the most.”
You could argue that this year’s team is deeper than the 2012 one, though the 2011-12 squad does have six players in the NBA currently. A starting five of the Harrison brothers, Poythress, Randle and Cauley-Stein would leave Johnson as the team’s first big off the bench, while Young would be the first perimeter player to enter the game off the pine. This leaves Lee as the eighth man, something Calipari may or may not use, though it would seem that there’s too much talent here to leave Lee wearing his warmups all game.
Truth be told, Lee has plenty of promise, as evidenced by his five-star rating. When called upon, Lee should be a perfect energy player off the team’s bench.
He is an explosive athlete, who can run the floors offensively and block shots on the defensive end. He is a highlight reel dunk waiting to happen and has drawn comparisons to former Arizona Wildcat star Derrick Williams. The fact of the matter is that there just simply won’t be enough minutes for all of Kentucky’s studs this season. As playing time may be at a premium, Lee will have to adjust to a lesser role than he is used to and adapt, which is not an easy task for an 18-year-old kid.
As far as weaknesses in Lee’s game go, his shooting is extremely poor. As a high school player, Lee shot 48 percent from the free-throw line for his career. He was consistent in his low mark from the charity stripe, connecting on 47, 40, 49 and 48 percent, respectively, over the course of four prep seasons. In total, Lee only converted on 191 of 399 free throw tosses.
Unsurprisingly, Lee also lacks any perimeter or mid-range game, which more and more power forwards (stretch 4s) have in their repertoire in today’s college and professional game.
Lee’s other obvious downside is his strength. He stands 6’9″ and weighs 200 pounds. While both Noel and Anthony Davis also lacked upper body strength, they were taller and had greater wingspans than Lee. While Lee is a good finisher around the hoop, he does struggle with contact in the paint and can get pushed out of position by bigger bodies. Kentucky’s toughest test in the SEC this year should once again be Florida. The Gators boast a frontline of Patric Young, Will Yeguete and Damontre Harris, all of whom have at least 30 pounds on Lee.
Lee will be a good player for Kentucky this season and will step up when called upon in his role. He will have a good collegiate career in Lexington, one that will likely last longer than some of his fellow 2013 recruits. Lee will also likely play in the NBA someday, once he improves upon some negatives in his game and becomes a more complete player. For now though, Lee seems to be the right pick as to which UK freshman will struggle this season, which starts just two weeks from now.