Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Does Wall Make Kentucky the Favorite?

With the news coming out early this morning that the No. 1 recruit in the country, John Wall, was committing to Kentucky, everyone started looking towards next season, when the Wildcats will welcome four five-star recruits -- and two more newcomers -- into a fold that could include nearly every key component from this past campaign. However, will it be enough to put Kentucky at the top of the preseason rankings heading into 2009-2010? Jeff Goodman of FOXSports.com updated his top-25, with UK overtaking Kansas for No. 1. CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish thinks that the Wildcats will take plenty of votes away from the Jayhawks in the preseason polls. On the other hand, I disagree.

Kansas won the Big 12 title this past season, receiving a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament and coming less than two minutes from reaching the Elite Eight. The Jayhawks bring back everyone who played a key role last season, namely potential All-Americans Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich, who might form the best inside-outside combo in the country. Tyshawn Taylor was a budding scorer on the wing, and Brady Morningstar filled every role. Marcus and Markieff Morris were solid up front, and Tyrel Reed and Mario Little were solid off the bench.

On top of that, Bill Self welcomes an outstanding recruiting class, led by top-five prospect Xavier Henry and fellow five-star guard Elijah Johnson. Forward Thomas Robinson will make an immediate impact, while Arizona transfer Jeff Withey is a talented post player.

They have all the pieces necessary to win the national championship, with experience and talent at every position and no clear weaknesses. Plus, they were one of the best teams in the country this past season and are only getting better.

On the other hand, while Kentucky might have more talent on its roster, the Wildcats finished just 8-8 in the SEC and missed the NCAA Tournament, going 3-8 in their final 11 regular-season games. Next season, they will have a new coach (John Calipari) and a new system (Dribble-Drive-Motion) and potentially three freshmen starters.

Of course, those newcomers are supremely talented, with five-star recruits John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton all capable of coming in and immediately making an impact. Bledsoe and Orton might be coming off the bench, too. Potential All-American Patrick Patterson withdrew his name from the NBA Draft, and Jodie Meeks could return as well. On the wings, returnees DeAndre Liggins and Darius Miller will team with freshmen Darnell Dodson and Jon Hood to form a solid group. Perry Stevenson and Ramon Harris were starters last season but will come off the bench in 09-10.

Can Calipari develop some chemistry between the newcomers and the returnees? Will Meeks indeed return to the Wildcats? How quickly will Kentucky adapt to the new system that Calipari will implement? Is there enough experience in the starting lineup?

Sure, Kentucky will solve its point guard problem with the addition of Wall and Bledsoe, and they certainly have a ton of talent, but there are too many questions because of the inexperience and new coaching staff to put the Wildcats ahead of Kansas at this point.


  1. I agree, Kansas should be preseason #1


  2. I think it makes a big difference if Meeks returns. He was fine with Gillespie, but he could prosper with Calipari. On the other hand, his return could make too many cooks in the kitchen.

    I wonder if Calipari will make Kentucky the Memphis of the SEC - everyone else will be competing for second year after year.