While many other college basketball writers and analysts have Kentucky projected as a top-five team going into next season, Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook editor Chris Dortch isn’t sure his preseason publication will have the Wildcats quite that high.
Dortch joked that CBSSports.com writers Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish already have put Kentucky No. 1 in their preseason polls, while ESPN’s Dick Vitale has the Wildcats in the top three.
Southeastern Conference again. (Florida coach) Billy Donovan can’t get another post player, and they have to get one to match Kentucky.”
However, Dortch isn’t sure those who are dismissing the SEC as Kentucky and a bunch of also-rans because of player defections to the NBA and graduation losses other teams suffered are right.
“Tennessee is going to be good and will have a great four-man post rotation that will give teams a lot of trouble,” he said. “(Tennessee coach) Cuonzo Martin wants his kids bigger and stronger, and they will be good. I think Alabama will be pretty good. Missouri will not far off too far, either.
“I still think from a raw talent standpoint, Kentucky will have the most talent. But what does that mean without having two warriors like Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist like UK did last year? It seems like (freshman) Archie Goodwin can be that way again. (Nerlens) Noel is obviously a guy that does not think he has to score, so that is big. So I think they are going to be pretty good.”
So does another SEC coach whom I talked to about Kentucky.
The Wildcats probably will have a starting lineup of transfer Ryan Harrow at point guard, Goodwin at shooting guard, freshman Alex Poythress at small forward, sophomore Kyle Wiltjer at power forward and Noel at center.
Transfer Julius Mays will back up Harrow and Goodwin while freshman Willie Cauley-Stein will provide depth at power forward and center. Goodwin will likely play small forward at times and senior Jon Hood can play multiple spots.
“How many coaches in the country would like to have that talent? I can tell you: almost every one. Those are four- and five-star recruits that can all play. Sure, they are going to be young, but hasn’t Cal always said he’ll take talent over experience, and he’ll have talent almost any coach would love to have,”¿Dortch said.
He’s right. Despite losing some spring recruits — and no one but Kentucky’s coaches know whether or not they pursued certain players, as most fans want to believe — Calipari has a rotation as deep as the ones he’s had the last two years, when the Cats made the Final Four.
The bigger issue will be a lack of proven experience. There will be no Darius Miller, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, DeAndre Liggins or Josh Harrellson on this team. Still, talent is talent.
“I will probably have to put them in the top five,” Dortch said. “Few teams will have more raw talent than Kentucky and Calipari knows how to use that talent. So even if I don’t put them in the top five to start the season because of having so many freshmen, that doesn’t mean they could not easily get there and back to another Final Four, because I think the talent will be that good.”