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Coach Cal strikes again: Noel makes Kentucky a favorite in ’13

Apr 11, 2012, 10:17 PM EDT

NCAA Men's Championship Game - Kansas v Kentucky Getty Images

Think about this: prior to Wednesday night’s recruiting special where Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad announced where they will be spending one season before heading to the NBA, John Calipari already had signed three recruits that would likely make up the best recruiting class any coach in the country had ever put together.

Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress are both consensus top 20 recruits while Willie Cauley is a top 40 player by most accounts. Add the top-ranked Noel to the mix, and all of a sudden Kentucky once again looks like a Final Four contender, and that’s before you consider who else they may be able to add to the mix: top ten recruit Anthony Bennett, top 25 recruit Amile Jefferson, former UConn big man Alex Oriakhi.

Kentucky could end up losing the top six players from their national title team and still end up heading into the 2012-2013 as the nation’s Preseason No. 1 team.

Noel commits to Kentucky

And that is why John Calipari said the sending five players to the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft was one of the most important days in the history of Kentucky basketball.

In 2009, UNC won the national title and then lost Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green. The following year, they added a loaded recruiting class — headlined by John Henson and a handful of other McDonald’s all-americans and blue-chip prospects — to a roster that already included Ed Davis, Deon Thompson and Tyler Zeller and promptly went to the NIT. In 2006, UConn lost six of their top seven players off of the most-talented (and under-performing?) team in the country — five of whom were draft, four in the first round. They brought in a recruiting class that included Hasheem Thabeet, Stanley Robinson and Jerome Dyson and added them to returnee Jeff Adrien and spent hte season as a non-entity in the Big East.

Does anyone see that happening with the Wildcats next year?

Calipari has turned Kentucky into a machine. He barely needs to make a pitch at this point; his program sells itself. He brings in the top players. He coaches them up throughout the season. He gets them competitive on a national level. He sends them off to the NBA. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

What blue-chipper isn’t looking for a fast-track to NBA money?

It’s fascinating, and I don’t think there is another coach in the country that could pull it off or another school at which Calipari would be able to pull it off. It’s the perfect storm, and it creates the nation’s most efficient producer of NBA level talent.

And Noel is just the latest cog in that machine.

The question I have is how long can it last.

Nothing about the job is stress-free. Big Blue Nation is as rabid, passionate and demanding as any fan base in the country. Keeping them satisfied — both with wins on the court and accessibility off the court — is as important as teaching his team how to properly rotate defensively. And you better believe that the teaching part of Calipari’s job is not easy, either. As talented as his freshmen are, they are still freshmen that need to be shown how to play and carry themselves at this level of basketball. And since those freshmen are immediately thrust into the spotlight, there is no adjustment period. They learn on the fly.

And even when they win a national title, they don’t have any time to celebrate. Kentucky won the title on a Monday and got back to Lexington on a Tuesday and by Friday, Calipari was already on the road recruiting, trying to ensure that he would be able to bring in a freshmen class that would live up to the expectations he had built.

Even if Calipari doesn’t ever go back to the NBA, how long is his body going to be able to handle the constant grind?

Because until he decides he no longer wants to roam the sidelines at Rupp Arena, it is tough to imagine a spring Kentucky isn’t following up a deep run through March with a notable signing day haul.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

  1. ukcats8andcountin - Apr 11, 2012 at 11:41 PM

    add another banner to the rafters fools. straight domination from start to finish. don’t think it won’t happen again. the C A T S cats cats cats are back. reppin UK dominance from Tucson az

  2. henson58 - Apr 12, 2012 at 1:08 AM

    sounds like front running to me. AZ how is it someone from AZ is a UK fan?

  3. kansacity88 - Apr 12, 2012 at 1:19 AM

    Yeah, we’ll see how long after Calipari decides to leave then the NCAA comes RIPPIN those banners out the rafters and vacating those titles! So far Cal is 2 for 2 in program destroying….will he go 3 for 3? Only time will tell!

    • florida727 - Apr 12, 2012 at 7:23 AM

      I won’t rip into Calipari as you did simply because the NCAA ruled that none of the violations that led to those other two programs forfeiting wins/seasons was attributed to Calipari. Is he “blameless”? Probably not. It’s not like football where you’re trying to keep track of 100 players. In hoops, you’ve got 10-12, including walk-ons who typically keep their noses collectively clean because they’re just happy to have the best seat in the house.

      Kentucky’s success going forward will be the same as it was this year: can Calipari get the incoming 18-year old egomaniacs to play as a team, especially defensively. (Remember, ALL these kids were scoring 20+ per game for the last “x” number of years, and constantly being told they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread; think it’s easy to get them to put teammates first?) Kentucky, arguably, had more talent when John Wall and Company occupied Lexington. They didn’t win because they didn’t play defense the way this year’s team embraced it. And that is solely attributable to ONE person: Calipari.

      Choke on that one “kansacity88” while you figure out the proper way to spell KANSAS city.

  4. Louisville Kentucky Mortgage - Apr 12, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    Calipari Era is upon US. Roy had his, Pitino had his, Coach K had his, Ben Howland,

  5. kansacity88 - Apr 12, 2012 at 2:33 PM

    That’s funny florida727, considering I spelled my screen name phonetically, pal! So I have something YOU can choke on! thanks for playing!

    Anyway, if you really wanna use the comparison of watching 10-12 players as opposed to 100, then might I remind you of the D Rose incident?!? It doesn’t matter HOW MANY players you are in control of! If Calipari OR his associates (see? I’m giving the benefit of the doubt) are dealing dirty, it’s only a matter of time before they’re found out! Whether it be the next year or two, like Memphis, or 4-5 years later like good ol’ Petey Boy in Seattle via USC! In no way, shape or form, did I say Kentucky WASN’T gonna continue their dominance! In fact, I agreed basically saying they were gonna rip the banner(S) down! You’re right, Cal may or may not be blameless, but programs will be scrutinized wherever he goes, just because of said incidents in the past! Sorry, just stating the obvious! Call me a captain for that I guess! As for you making fun of the screen name, LOL…..the joke is on you buddy! That’s like me making fun of florida727 and saying, “Duhh, when you type the name of a proper noun, it should always be capitalized!” Seriously? Obviously you think I misspelled it on accident!! Its called creativity, man! Look into it sometime! Now get back to work!

  6. ukcats8andcountin - Apr 12, 2012 at 11:17 PM

    you’re absolutely right. nobody ever moves from their home and couldn’t possibly be an alumni living in another state.

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