Now that the banner has been hung in Rupp Arena for the 2013-2014 season, it’s time to look ahead to the 2014-15 season. And expectations will once again be high for John Calipari’s Wildcats. Regardless of what happens with Kentucky’s pro prospects, the Wildcats are a top ten team in the “way too early” season rankings … and if any of the freshmen return, well watch out!
The Sporting News ranked them the highest — No. 2 in the country behind Arizona, though the national outlet did acknowledge that the lofty expectations might hinge on the return of the Harrison twins, something many others see as unlikely.
ESPN ranked Kentucky at No. 3. USA Today and NBC Sports both had the Wildcats at No. 5. CBS ranked UK at No. 7 in the country for next season.
Three of those five national outlets had Arizona at No. 1, and the other two put Duke in the top spot.
UK’s current players offered no hints about their NBA plans following Monday’s loss, and Calipari said that he would sit down with each player individually in the coming days to evaluate their professional prospects.
“I kind of stay out of the decision making,” Calipari said. “I just get them information. So we’ll see. I have no idea because I haven’t talked to them and none of us have talked about that.
The big question now for the UK basketball team is “Should they stay or should they go”. It seems to be common consensus that James Young and Julius Randle will depart for the NBA, but the big question seems to be Willie Cauley-Stein and the Harrison twins. WCS seems to be leaning towards a return to Kentucky with his recent comments but Aaron and Aaron Harrison seem to be a genuine tossup. There are some that think the Harrisons will be served by returning to UK.
Andrew Harrison, freshman point guard: He could use another year if he wants to prove he actually can play point at the NBA level. His 6-5 frame and versatile skill set will intrigue teams, but right now he risks falling into the second round.
Verdict: Stay, maybe.
Aaron Harrison, freshman shooting guard: His enormous three-pointers against Michigan and Wisconsin may make it impossible not to ride the momentum, but Aaron Harrison still may not be a first-rounder. Running the show again with his brother makes sense.
Verdict: Stay, maybe.
Even though Mitch Barnhart has referred to Rex Chapman’s tweets saying Calipari was a “done deal” to the Lakers as “absolute garbage”, the Calipari NBA rumors will continue. Turns out that Chapman’s tweets turned out to be a big distraction to at least UK fans and even Calipari before the game. Rumors are part of the business, but even current Laker coach Mike D’Antoni felt for Cal with the timing of these rumors.
“You deal with it, and I hate it for John more than anybody because that puts an undue pressure on something before a big game that he doesn’t need to be distracted with,” D’Antoni said after the Lakers’ shootaround Tuesday.
Kentucky lost to UConn 60-54 in the NCAA men’s basketball national championship game Monday night, just hours after former Kentucky star and current Wildcats TV color commentator Rex Chapman tweeted that Calipari would leave Kentucky to coach the Lakers next season.
Both Calipari and the Lakers denied the validity of the story, with Calipari telling ESPN’s Jeannine Edwards that he would “absolutely” be back at Kentucky, and the Lakers telling ESPN and other media outlets that it was simply “untrue.”
Chapman joined “The Dan Patrick Show” on Tuesday to clarify his remarks, saying he now believes Calipari is likely to stay with the Wildcats. He also said Calipari could be bargaining to get more money from Kentucky.
D’Antoni said it was “great” that the Lakers quashed the story, but understands that unsubstantiated rumors will come up in today’s media landscape.
“That’s kind of the world we live in,” D’Antoni said. “Where before, what, three years ago, it would just be a little rumor that one person heard. Now, a million hear it. That’s just the way the world is. It’s social media and people run with it and whether it means anything or not, it’s not really up to me anyway. So, you just go on. It’s not a big deal.”