(Which of the two I have more of should be made obvious simply by the existence of the column itself this week.)
Regardless, I’m happy to take a little space this week to tell you why you should love this year’s Kentucky Wildcat basketball team. And next week, you’ll get your first glimpse at why you should love this year’s Trigg County High School boys and girls teams in our annual basketball preview special section.
First, Big Blue.
To this point in the season, we’ve seen the ‘Cats play Michigan State and a whole lot of nobody else. Not to disparage the likes of Northern Kentucky (the Norse – what a great mascot) and Robert Morris (a team that topped last year’s ‘Cats – “last year’s” being the operative phrase), but those were easy wins. Just as it should be in UK’s hoops world.
And despite UK losing to the Spartans, there are plenty of positives to be had from a mid-November four-point loss in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 contest.
First, Michigan State is an experienced squad fully deserving of its early perch in the rankings. Kentucky, which continues to bring in top-rated recruiting classes thanks in large part to head coach John Calipari, is once again freshman laden. Highly talented freshmen, to be sure, but first-year guys nonetheless. These young UK teams won’t always gel right away like the John Wall-led ‘Cats did – last year’s Archie Goodwin-led ‘Cats being a prime example of that.
Against the Spartans, UK essentially didn’t play for the first five minutes. The ‘Cats were fortunate to only fall behind 10-0 in that span. The game ebbed and flowed from there for a while, until the start of the second half, when Big Blue came out roaring. The rest of the way, it was a battle – not always pretty, but entertaining.
And it showed that these ‘Cats have fight, heart, determination and all those other cliches coaches love to use and hate to see guys like me put in columns like this.
Julius Randle. James Young, Aaron and Andrew Harrison. Dakari Johnson. Marcus Lee. Those are your top freshmen. Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein, Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood are back from last year’s squad. In-state freshman Dominique Hawkins has shown early flashes of what could be a fun-to-watch four-year career.
Is this a national championship-caliber team? In today’s college basketball landscape, yes. Will the ‘Cats get the job done in March/early April? We’ll see.
At worst, it won’t be worse than last year.
Justin McGill is general manager of The Cadiz Record and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.