Kentucky Basketball: 5 Bold Predictions for the 2014-15 Season
After a slow start in which everyone counted the Kentucky Wildcats out, head coach John Calipari and his team full of talented freshmen made an improbable run to the national championship game.
A 60-54 loss to UConn not only left a bitter taste in the team's mouth, but it prompted most of the players, even some with promising NBA draft statuses, to return for the 2014-2015 season.
Combining one of the top recruiting classes in college basketball with most of the players from a national runner-up team, Kentucky might have its most talented roster in not only the Calipari era, but possibly in the history of the program.
With a year that is sure to be one of the most memorable in Kentucky Wildcats history, here are five bold predictions for the upcoming season.
At Least One Incoming Freshman Will Start
Kentucky will have experience at its advantage, which is something that hasn't been said about this team in recent history. Still, with a host of talented guys returning, the incoming freshman class will hold its own and ultimately challenge for serious playing time.
The exit of versatile guard James Young leaves a void of three-point shooting that will be needed for another Kentucky Final Four run. Devin Booker, a 6'5" shooting guard from Moss Point, Mississippi, has the shooting prowess to make a seamless transition into that role.
The Wildcats will also add two frontcourt players who will push Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee. Both Karl-Anthony Towns and Trey Lyles are highly decorated recruits who would be able to start for any team in the nation. Because there is so much depth, practices for this group of players will be more competitive than some of the games.
Tyler Ulis might be the most important recruit of this bunch. Ulis is a floor general who will look to get other players involved before taking his own shot. Incorporating Ulis into the rotation also allows Calipari to play both Aaron and Andrew Harrison at the wing positions, which will be a nightmare for opposing defenses.
Kentucky Will Continue to Own Louisville
It is always a huge deal in the Bluegrass State when Kentucky and Louisville face off. In the rivalry's recent history, Kentucky has won more often than not—and that won't change next year.
When Kentucky travels to the brutal atmosphere of the KFC Yum! Center for its annual showdown next season, it will likely be a gut check for this team before it heads into conference play.
Kentucky will be better than Louisville at every position, and because of that, expect the Wildcats to come away with a victory. With the loss of senior leaders Russ Smith and Luke Hancock, it's hard to see where the passion or scoring will come from with Louisville, especially against the Wildcats.
Aaron Harrison will lead the team in scoring
After hitting a series of the most clutch shots in Kentucky history, Aaron Harrison's confidence will be sky high, and he will lead Kentucky in scoring next season.
Harrison can pretty much do it all on the floor, and with the addition of Ulis, Harrison won't be forced to play the point guard position when his brother Andrew heads to the bench. This will allow him to almost exclusively play off the ball and concentrate on scoring more than distributing.
Many times last season, Julius Randle was the go-to guy for the Wildcats, but Aaron has likely earned that role because of the big moments he produced last season.
Kentucky Will Go Undefeated
OK, OK. This was said about last year's team as well, but this team has the tools, experience and depth to actually do this.
With so much talent on the roster, there shouldn't be any team in America that can put together a 40-minute performance good enough to beat the Wildcats.
However Calipari decides to shape Kentucky's rotation, the first five players off the Wildcats bench would be a formidable starting lineup in any conference in the country. That kind of depth is unheard of in this age of college basketball and will ultimately propel the Wildcats to the first undefeated season since the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers.
John Calipari Will Head to the NBA After Next Season
There is only so long a coach can ignore the calls of the NBA, especially one who wants to prove that he belongs after a failed stint as the Nets head coach. Calipari's name always seems to come up when a NBA job is available, but as he did in his press conference following his team's loss in the national championship game, he always dispels rumors by saying, "I have the best job in the country."
After leading this team to an undefeated season and a second national title in six seasons, Calipari will not run from the rumors anymore. He will have nothing left to prove at the collegiate level and will decide to leave Kentucky while taking his pick of job offers.