It's becoming a tradition here on Serene Musings for me to write about UK basketball, so since another season is upon us, it's time to reignite the tradition.
My loyal readers may recall my prediction two years ago about UK potentially going undefeated. That was Calipari's first season, when he had 5 players, including 4 freshman, who went in the 1st round of the NBA draft. One of those freshman first round picks wasn't even a starter for that UK team.
My prediction went fantastically until early January, when they finally lost. Still, they managed to be the last team that year that was still undefeated, and went to the Elite Eight. The following year, they got to the Final Four for the first time in 12 years.
Now, they are among the favorites to win it all in 2012. They've got another unmatched freshman class this year, and most analysts seem to think this is probably their best team yet under Calipari. Not only do they have a ton of talented freshman who will be in the NBA next year, but they also have some veteran leadership that they have not had in previous years under Coach Cal. One of their best players from last year's team, Terrence Jones, stayed for another season, and together with a few other older players, that has made this team deeper and more experienced than Cal's previous two squads.
They proved their ability last week when they faced off against fellow power house Kansas, who was ranked 10th in the preseason. They won by double digits against them, then won the Naismith Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament they played in this weekend.
On December 3rd, they are playing UNC at Rupp Arena. Currently UK is ranked #2 nationally behind UNC, so this is likely to be an early season 1-2 match-up. Kentucky will benefit from playing the game at home (they played in North Carolina last year). I've already heard some analysts say that they don't believe anyone is good enough to beat Kentucky on their own court this year, but we'll have to just wait and see. Being that UNC is probably Kentucky's number 1 arch rival, this will be a very important game, and will probably decide which team is going to be ranked number 1 come January and conference play.
So far, I've only watched one UK game this year (I missed the first game, and the two games this weekend were not televised where I live) so I can't yet give an accurate analysis of what I think they are capable of. In the Kansas game, they played horribly in the 1st half - probably one of the worst single-half performances that I have seen them play under Calipari, yet Kansas didn't play well either, and they were tied at halftime. Kentucky got it together in the second half and played fairly well, although they tailed off at the end of the game.
In any case, it's going to be an exciting year for Kentucky fans, and a frustrating year for all the rest who love to hate UK basketball.