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Is Coach Cal going to bring back this year’s freshmen?

Mar 20, 2013, 10:30 AM EDT

USA Today USA Today

The irony was almost too much to bear.

Kentucky, who had made their way up to John Calipari’s hometown of Moon, PA, for the NIT, got knocked out in the first round by Robert Morris. It was a one-and-done performance in the tournament no one pays attention to that could end up keeping this year’s recruiting class from being one-and-done players headed to the NBA.

Or at least that’s what Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein were saying after the 59-57 loss.

“I don’t know if it’s a question whether I’m going (to the NBA) or not,” Goodwin said. “I don’t think I’m ready to go. It’s no reason why I think any of our guys should really leave. We should come back next year. … If any of us were saying we think we should leave, then we’d all be delusional. None of us need to leave.”

“Yeah, I do,” Poythress said, when asked if he thinks he’s coming back. “I don’t think I’m ready (for the NBA).”

But here’s the thing: it’s not so much whether or not they are ready for the NBA as it is that UK is ready for them to head to the next level. Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin are both being projected as mid-first round picks in the 2013 draft. They may be able to sneak into the back end of the lottery this year. Willie Cauley-Stein is projected as a top ten pick in 2014, but after the way he played after Nerlens Noel’s injury, it’s not difficult to imagine that an NBA team would be willing to use a guaranteed contract on him.

And if they do come back, where are they going to get their minutes from?

Kentucky’s recruiting class, as of this moment, includes both the Harrison twins, James Younger, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee. There’s a chance that it could also include either Andrew Wiggins or Julius Randle, maybe both. And while it’s starting to seem unlikely, Aaron Gordon might even be thrown into the mix.

Coach Cal doesn’t need depth. In 2010-2011, the seventh-man — Eloy Vargas — averaged 7.7 minutes. In 2011-2012, the seventh-man — Kyle Wiltjer — averaged 11.6 minutes. This season, the eighth-man — Jarrod Polson — averaged 13.8 minutes, and that had much more to do with Cal not trusting Ryan Harrow than it did wanted to play Polson that much.

Cal is going to bring in those five (or six or seven) recruits while also having Wiltjer return for his junior season. Throw Poythress, Goodwin and Cauley-Stein in the mix, and all of a sudden there is too much talent.

Is he going to risk the happiness and the sanity of his team for a group of freshmen that he said “hijacked” the program? Guys that he said he was forced to accept the unacceptable from?

I’ll believe it when the NBA Draft’s early-entry deadline passes and those three have yet to declare.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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