As the Big Blue Nation mourns a month of March without being in the NCAA Tournament, the casualties of their exclusion go a bit beyond pride and a chance (however unlikely it would have been) to defend their national title.
The national stage of the NCAA Tournament has also been a stage for many Wildcats to significantly increase their draft stock, some even going from not on the board at all to a decent pick.
During the 2009-2010 season (the year of Kentucky having five first round picks), conventional wisdom had guard Eric Bledsoe and center/forward Daniel Orton staying in school for another year. But during that year's NCAA Tournament, Bledsoe proceeded to shoot the lights out while Orton put his raw athletic ability on full display. Subsequently, both players draft stock rose to the point that they were taken in the first round.
It's (barely) debatable whether or not Orton should have stayed (he definitely should have), but after being picked No. 18 Clippers, Bledsoe has begun a solid professional career despite having to battle injuries.
During the 2010-2011 season, Deandre Liggins and Josh Harrelson went from players appreciated mostly in the bluegrass state and in SEC circles to getting national attention for their great hustle and defensive capabilities. This helped both players to get selected in the 2011 NBA draft (which is really amazing when you consider that both players were in Calipari's doghouse during his first year coaching the team).
The strong play of Brandon Knight also significantly improved his draft stock, helping him to be selected by the Detroit Pistons at No. 8 in that year's draft.
And while last year's star studded and virtually unstoppable national championship team didn't need a lot of help getting exposure and recognition for its talent, this group definitely did. A prime example of this is Archie Goodwin, who was just starting to get his game under control and find a consistent offensive rhythm. A strong post season showing could have greatly helped his positioning in the draft.
A very weak draft this year probably means that a player like Goodwin will still get selected relatively early, but unlike the Calipari-coached teams from the last three years, all eyes will not be on him and his teammates during the month of March.
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