With Big Blue Madness only two weeks away, the buzz about John Calipari’s third Kentucky basketball team is growing.
“Kentucky is going to be good, really good,” ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale said. “I have them No. 2 in my preseason poll behind North Carolina and ahead of Connecticut and the Buckeyes of Ohio State. John has another powerhouse team. By March, they might be No. 1.”
Kentucky does have a lot of talent despite losing Brandon Knight, Josh Harrellson and DeAndre Liggins to the NBA off last year’s Final Four team.
So how do media members who cover the Wildcats regularly feel about the season? I asked WLEX-TV sports director Alan Cutler (twitter.com/cutler18), Kentucky radio play-by-play voice Tom Leach (tomleachky.com and twitter @tomleachUK), Kentucky Sports Radio founder and talk show host Matt Jones, WLEX-TV sports anchor Mary Jo Perino, former UK basketball All-American and college basketball analyst Kyle Macy and WLAP-AM sports talk host Dick Gabriel for their thoughts:
Question: Do you consider Kentucky a national title contender this year. Why or why not?
Leach: “Absolutely. Kentucky has the talent it takes to win it all and John Calipari has clearly demonstrated his skill in getting new players to mesh into his system and his returning team seamlessly.”
Jones: “Yes, I do. I think four teams are a lot better than everyone else, UK, UNC, UConn and Ohio State. One of those teams will win the national championship and I think Kentucky has as good a chance as any of them.”
Cutler: “Anyone who doesn’t consider UK a national title contender either doesn’t know basketball or has something against UK. It’s obvious that they are.”
Lemond: “I absolutely think Kentucky is a national title contender this year. I really think Kentucky and North Carolina are clearly the two best teams in the country, and I feel like it’s not even close. I believe there is a big gap between UK and North Carolina and everyone else. Kentucky has more talent than they had last year. With Terrence Jones, Darius Miller and Doron Lamb all returning, the foundation is there for another championship run.”
Perino: “Absolutely. After making it to the Final Four last year with the team they had, this group will have big time expectations. This team should have a lot more depth and as we’ve seen, that’s not a necessity, but it sure helps. The talent level will certainly be enough to contend for a national championship.”
Macy: “Yes, Kentucky should be a major player in the NCAA tournament. From the last two seasons Kentucky fans have learned that great talent trumps age/experience in today's game. Chemistry becomes the main variable.”
Gabriel: “Of course; the moment Terrence Jones made his decision to return, the odds became very short on Kentucky returning to the Final Four. Once you’re there, anything can happen.”
Question: Which freshman are you the most anxious to see play and why?
Jones: “I am most excited about Anthony Davis, because I think he has the potential to be a star. His combination of height, athleticism and versatility is very rare. It is as if a young Kevin Garnett actually decided to go to college. Plus, I think he breaks the single season blocks record this year.”
Cutler: “Davis. Davis. And Anthony Davis. The last time UK had anyone that tall that could run the court like this, with a ton of talent, Sam Bowie was playing. That’s before Sam got hurt. People forget how he could run and do things very few that tall could do. Davis should be a lot of fun to watch.”
Lemond: “Probably Marquis Teague. I know Michael Gilchrist and Anthony Davis will probably end up being lottery picks, but Teague is the guy that can make it all happen. I’ve always been a strong believer that it all starts with the point guard. Coach Calipari has obviously had unbelievable success with his point guards, and I think Teague will have the same success as Brandon Knight and John Wall had at Kentucky.
“Being a former Hoosier myself, Teague is just another great guard from Indiana to take his skills to Kentucky following in the footsteps of Kyle Macy, James Blackmon, Jim Masters, Sean Woods and others.”
Perino: “Definitely Anthony Davis. I’m excited to see his inside/outside game. I’m really expecting him to live up to the hype.”
Macy: “Not sure how you pick just one. With all the hype leading into the season from this recruiting class, I look forward to seeing how each makes the adjustment. If I have to pick one, I will choose Anthony Davis. Some have already picked him first-team All-American”
UK Basketball: Media looking for big things from Wildcats
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