The final chords of “One Shining Moment” hadn’t even sounded following North Carolina’s triumph in the 2017 NCAA Tournament before, seemingly, every college hoops writer in the country was up with a “Way Too Early Top 25” for 2018.
Apparently, the 2017-18 Kentucky Wildcats are loaded for bear.
Not to be outdone, the oddsmakers at Bovada have already established Kentucky as the 9-1 favorite to win the 2018 NCAA championship.
I don’t get any of this.
Not to make too much of “Way Too Early Top 25s,” which exist primarily for fun and Internet clicks (not necessarily in that order), but it’s very hard to understand why UK — based on the players likely to be on the Cats’ roster next season — is getting such lavish hype.
We can revisit the following assessment if Bam Adebayo and Isaiah Briscoe decide to return for next season and/or UK signs heralded big man Mohamed Bamba, but I’m not sure Kentucky should even be in preseason Top 10s for 2017-18.
For all the focus on UK’s long line of one-and-done stars, Kentucky’s best teams in the Calipari era have had significant veteran presences.
Unless Briscoe and Adebayo stay, the 2017-18 Cats are not going to have that caliber of veterans.
Things could look different if UK adds Bamba, a shot-blocking 6-foot-11 center from Westtown, Pa., and/or Kevin Knox, an outside-shooting wing from Tampa, but the current list of Cats commitments is not considered to have a sure one-and-done prospect in the class.
There’s not one player currently affiliated with the Kentucky program projected to go in the 2018 NBA Draft according to the mock selections at Draftexpress.com.
No current UK signee is ranked in the top 10 of the Rivals 150.
Forward PJ Washington is 11th; center Nick Richards is 16th; forward Jarred Vanderbilt is 21st; point guard Quade Green is 23rd; and guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is 32nd. (Mid-semester enrollee Hamidou Diallo, a five-star shooting guard, is not ranked).
If UK doesn’t add Bamba (fourth) or Knox (ninth), it would be the first time since Calipari came to Kentucky that the Cats did not sign a top-10 prospect from the Rivals 150.
The good news for those Kentucky fans with one-and-done fatigue — a group that seems to be growing — is the 2017 Wildcats recruiting class appears to be one that could be around for multiple seasons.
Then again, people were saying similar things about UK’s 2014 recruiting class.
That group — Towns, Trey Lyles, Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker — came to Lexington with analysts projecting only Towns as likely to go one-and-done. It wound up producing three one-and-done players, plus a two-and-through (Ulis) who left UK after having been SEC Player of the Year as a sophomore.
So you never know.
What we do know is that, unless Adebayo and Briscoe surprise by returning next season, Kentucky’s 2017-18 team will not have any full-time starters back.
We also know that, unless Bamba comes on board, UK’s 2017 recruiting class will not include a player considered to be a surefire, first-round draft pick in 2018.
Which is why these “Way Too Early Top 25s” are applying a level of hype to Kentucky that seems misplaced.