Kentucky’s disappointing season hit a new low when the Wildcats lost to Robert Morris in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament on Tuesday night in, of all places, John Calipari‘s hometown of Moon Township, Pa. No more games appear on the schedule, but there is still trouble ahead for Calipari and Co.
Heralded freshmen recruits Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress didn’t pan out as expected in their first season and, along with fellow freshman Willie Cauley-Stein, announced they intend on returning to Kentucky for another season. The only problem is that Calipari is bringing in arguably the greatest recruiting class in college basketball history — a six-man class headlined by Julius Randle and Andrew and Aaron Harrison. That class could become seven if the nation’s top player, Andrew Wiggins, pledges to Big Blue Nation. For the first time, the one-and-done culture Calipari had benefited from has backfired on him. Too much talent is coming in and not enough is going out.
Under Calipari, Kentucky lands top recruit after top recruit. Most of them spend a year in Lexington and then take their talent to the NBA — rarely do these top prospects return. Two years ago Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb elected to stay for a sophomore season while Brandon Knight jumped to the draft. It was a beneficial move for Jones, Lamb and Kentucky. Calipari brought in a four-man class, starring Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. That class filled out the starting five and added another rotation guy as Kentucky went onto a national title.
Fast-forward to 2013 and too many players want to stay, and too much talent is coming in.
Coach Cal has taken his fair share of responsibility for this season, but he has made it clear he is unhappy with this year’s team, going as far to say that they “hijacked” the program. Now decisions need to be made by both players and the team.
Ryan Harrow struggled at point guard all season and even lost minutes to former walk-on Jarrod Polson. Andrew Harrison is 6-foot-5 and tabbed as the nation’s top floor general in the Class of 2013. Goodwin will have to split time on the wing with James Young as well as Andrew’s twin, Aaron. If Poythress does end up returning to Lexington, the front line will be centered around Randle, who some draft analysts believe would compete for the top spot in this year’s draft.
The thing about scholarships is that they aren’t four-year deals, they are annually renewed. Calipari could call in Goodwin, Poythress, Cauley-Stein and Harrow and tell them he won’t have a spot on next year’s team and should either transfer or test the NBA Draft waters. He revoked Dajuan Wagner‘s scholarship back 2002 when Calipari was still with Memphis. Wagner had a terrific freshman season and Calipari tore up his scholarship, forcing him to go pro so Wagner could benefit from the money he’d make as a first rounder.
This was obviously a different circumstance, but it’s one of the solutions Calipari can use to fix the mess Kentucky is in. Although Goodwin and Poythress didn’t produce like Nerlens Noel — a projected top pick — did in their freshman campaigns, they are both projected as first-round picks by DraftExpress.com. Cauley-Stein played well when Noel went out with an season-ending injury, and at 7-feet could also be drafted, especially in a weak draft class.
A lot needs to be solved in Lexington before next season begins. Despite its season being over, Kentucky is playing in its own type of madness.
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