The ever evolving perception of the Kentucky Wildcats has once again changed. Over the summer, the Wildcats were going to win the NCAA Championship on the back of the best recruiting class in the history of college basketball. After they lost to Michigan State in their third game of the season, the narrative changed to, “they are young and will improve throughout the season.” And after losing to Baylor on Friday night, the perception has changed again, and they are now considered too immature to realistically compete for the championship. In the words of Ron Burgundy, “That escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast.”
What happened to Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, James Young, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee being the best class every assembled? Now everyone is going the opposite direction, saying they are overrated, and that freshmen cannot win a title. The fact that Kentucky did it with Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and others is now considered a fluke. That team was lucky; they had great freshmen to go along with two sophomores and a senior. That’s why they won, and no other team led by freshmen will ever win it all again.
In today’s world of knee-jerk reactions and instant analysis, my suggestion is for people to calm down. This year’s Kentucky team has played nine games, and both of their losses are neutral site losses by a combined total of nine points to ranked teams. The Fab Five lost eight regular season games at Michigan when they were freshmen, and no one was calling them frauds. They made it to the Championship game. That Michigan team had four players that were eventually drafted in the NBA. This Kentucky team will have three freshmen drafted this season in the first round this year (Randle, Young and Andrew Harrison), and four other players that are sure to be drafted this year or next year (Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein, Aaron Harrison and Johnson.) Lee is the only one who doesn’t get a lot of playing time, but he could also turn into an NBA player down the road.
This team has at least seven NBA players on the roster; a team with this much talent is going to be good, but you have to give them time. This year’s Kentucky team is not like last season’s team. Last season had to deal with the loss of their best player, Nerlens Noel, and got no production from the point guard spot. This year’s team has toughness, they can rebound, defend, and play well together. When March rolls around and the brackets come out, Kentucky will be a one or two seed, and have just as much of a chance of winning the title as any other team. Sure, there is some immaturity that needs to be worked on, but that’s a work in progress.
Follow Robbie on Twitter @rmarbury