The best thing about John Calipari's infusion of top-level talent into the Kentucky basketball program is this:
Assuming he stays healthy, it should mean that Patrick Patterson at last gets to play in an NCAA Tournament.
You'll recall that the Kentucky power forward missed the Cats' 2008 NCAA tourney first-round loss to Marquette due to an injured ankle. Last year, all the other Wildcats joined Patterson in missing the NCAAs entirely.
This season, who knows? If John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Co. are as good as advertised, maybe UK can do more than take Patterson to the Big Dance.
They might get the Huntington, W.Va., product off of this list:
My 10 most notable UK men's basketball players to never play in a Final Four.
10. Rajon Rondo. No, Rondo was not the standout in his two years at UK that he has become with the Boston Celtics; but he was the first player to lead Kentucky in both rebounds (6.1) and assists (4.9) in the same season (2005-06) since Cotton Nash in 1962-63.
Rondo was part of a No. 1 recruiting class with Randolph Morris, Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley, none of whom ever played on college basketball's final weekend.
9. John Pelphrey. The best player of the "loyal four" — Sean Woods, Deron Feldhaus, Richie Farmer — who stayed with UK through the late 1980s NCAA probation. The group famously had their one Final Four chance snuffed by Christian Laettner's buzzer beater in 1992.
Question: Is this class actually more unforgettable because their careers ended with valiance in a stirring defeat than they would be if they'd made the '92 Final Four?
8. Chuck Hayes. UK's undersized warrior of a power forward played on two teams seeded No. 1 overall in the NCAA tourney (2003 and 2004) and two teams that reached the Elite Eight (2003 and '05) but Hayes never made it to the promised land.
7. Patrick Patterson. Even with no NCAA tourney games on the résumé, has been a double-double machine and one of the all-time class acts to wear Kentucky blue.
6. Mike Casey. The ex-Shelby County star was the leading scorer (20.1) as a sophomore (over Dan Issel) on a team that lost a trip to the 1967 Final Four with a last-second loss to Ohio State in a region finals in Memorial Coliseum.
The Cats of 1969-70, the senior year for stars Casey, Issel and Mike Pratt, would probably have been national championship favorites except Casey suffered a broken leg before the season and missed the entire year. Without its star guard, UK still went 26-2 but lost to Jacksonville in the 1970 Mideast Region finals.
5. Keith Bogans. Kentucky's fourth all-time leading scorer (1,923 career points) was the senior star of Tubby Smith's 2003 team that won 26 games in a row and was top overall seed in the NCAAs.
In the round of 16, Bogans suffered a badly sprained ankle versus Wisconsin. Against Marquette and star Dwyane Wade in the Elite Eight, Bogans was hobbled and a UK dream season ended one game short of the Final Four.
4. Rex Chapman. In two years (1986-87, '87-88), the Boy King shot across Kentucky basketball like a meteor but his teams did not leave much of an NCAA tourney footprint.
In 1987, Chapman and mates went out to Ohio State in the first round. The next season, Chapman, Winston Bennett and Co. lost to Villanova in the round of 16 — then subsequently had their two wins from that tourney vacated from the records due to UK NCAA violations.
3. Tayshaun Prince. After Michigan State rallied to beat Kentucky in the 1999 Midwest Region finals, UK freshman Prince was in tears in the Cats' locker room.
The willowy forward would go on to become a Kentucky star — but he never again came as close to the Final Four as he was that day in St. Louis.
2. Cotton Nash. One of the most accomplished players ever to play at Kentucky, Nash never averaged less than 20.6 points or 11.7 rebounds in any of his three varsity seasons at UK. In 1962-63, he led the Cats in scoring (20.6), rebounds (12.0) and assists (2.6).
Yet in Nash's career, Kentucky won one NCAA Tournament game.
1. Dan Issel. Kentucky's all-time leading men's basketball scorer (2,138) and probably the most revered player ever to wear a UK jersey, Issel played on teams that twice reached regional finals, but never made the final weekend of a college basketball season.
Honorable mention of notable Kentucky basketball players who never played in a Final Four: Jim Andrews, Bob Burrow, Ed Davender, Gerald Fitch, Derrick Hord, Jodie Meeks, Dirk Minniefield, Tom Parker, Mike Pratt.
Here's to a winter of happy hooping.