Questions Surround Kentucky Basketball as Regular Season Ends

Kentucky Basketball has a Rich History

Coming into this season, the Kentucky Wildcats program had justifiably high hopes. They had the most talented recruiting classes in the nation, one that looked to rank among the best of all time. Lead by forward Julius Randle the Wildcats 2013 class boasted six McDonald’s All-Americans, and coach John Calipari looked to have a sure rebound from last year’s disappointing finish.


From national title hopes, the Wildcats are wrapping up a season where we only saw flashes of the team that had such potential. While narrow losses to traditional powerhouses Michigan State and North Carolina may have been expected from such a young team, the team lost three of their last five SEC games entering a season-ending showdown against #1 Florida. The Wildcats appear to be afterthoughts entering the tournament season, yet a team with this much talent can never be counted out at this time of year.


Still, regular seasons like the last two for Kentucky have to be frustrating for star head coach John Calipari, and his emotions have been apparent. Even after a recent win against Alabama, Calipari described the team as “not all the way back... They’re a little rattled.” 


Speculation has grown that the pressure cooker that is Kentucky basketball is becoming too much for Calipari, and that he may be feeling the call of greener pastures. Dissatisfaction from some in the fan base has even lead to members of Calipari’s family firing back through social media with responses. Daughter Erin Calipari tweeted early in March comparing winning statistics of the coach with others around the nation. 


If Calipari were to leave, it would bring turmoil to a program that has become used to the top-notch recruiting classes he brings in. Going back to his days at Memphis, Calipari has been able to bring in top recruits from around the country, and a departure would mean changes for their system of competing. With most, if not all, of Kentucky’s 2013 class likely leaving for the NBA Draft next year Kentucky will be relying on another top class in 2014 to have any chance of contending.


That 2014 class may not have all the star power of 2013, but it is far from lacking. The Wildcats have three five-star recruits for 2014, lead by Trey Lyles, out of Indianapolis. Lyles, a 6’10 power forward, was hotly contested by Louisville coach Rick Pitino, yet he chose Kentucky over the defending champions. Karl Towns, Devin Booker, and Tyler Ulis will round out an imposing class that again will have national title aspirations.


If Calipari leaves following this season, that class could be in jeopardy and Kentucky basketball will be in a state of flux. Yet plenty of basketball remains from now through the end of March. A deep run in the NCAA Tournament would likely appease the rabid Kentucky fanbase and could change any potential doubts John Calipari has over staying. The talent is clearly there, and it will be one of many plotlines to watch as this month of basketball unfurls.