Kentucky’s men’s basketball team went undefeated in the regular season and has dominated its three games in the NCAA tournament, beating West Virginia 78-39 win on Thursday night to reach the Elite 8 with ease.
The Wildcats have won 37 games in a row, making them one of the most dominant teams in college basketball history.
Kentucky is good every year under John Calipari, but this year’s team is particularly dominant for a simple reason: Only two players entered the NBA draft after last season, as a bunch of guys that have traditionally bolted to the pros returned to college for one more year.
Calipari has mastered the use of the one-and-done player. He is used to signing No. 1 recruiting classes, having all those freshmen leave after one year, and then replacing them another No. 1 recruiting class. This year, he essentially has two full recruiting classes on his roster for the first time, which gives Kentucky a level talent, depth, and experience that no one else can match.
Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee, and twin guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison all came back to school after 2014. Only two players, Julius Randle and James Young, entered the draft.
For many schools, having two players enter the NBA draft is an accomplishment, but for Kentucky, it’s on the lower end. Here’s a look at the number of drafted players from Kentucky since 2010:
- 2014: Julius Randle, James Young
- 2013: Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin
- 2012: Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb, Darius Miller
- 2011: Brandon Knight, Josh Harrellson, DeAndre Liggins, Enes Kanter (who signed with Kentucky but was ruled ineligible to play his freshman year)
- 2010: John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton
John Calipari has admitted that the stacked roster, which also includes McDonald’s All-American freshmen Karl-Anthony Towns and Trey Lyles, sort of fell into his lap.
According to Tommy Tomlinson of ESPN the Mag, Calipari was weighing a giant 10-year, $US80 million coaching offer from the Cleveland Cavaliers this summer. He ended up returning to Kentucky instead, with Calipari’s close friend Ric Elias telling Tomlinson, “The untold story of Cal is that he came back because of all those kids that wanted to come back.”
When discussing his system of dividing playing time, Calipari told ESPN’s Andy Katz in October, “Now we’re trying to do something never done in college basketball. We never expected four of these guys to come back, but they did, so what are we going to do?”
Calipari is basically playing a team full of NBA rookies, which is just far too much talent for most schools to compete against.
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