The only thing John Calipari values more than his suits are recruits.
In the 2012 tournament, Kentucky stormed to Calipari’s first national championship. He had the services of Anthony Davis, the top pick in the next NBA draft.
Calipari might have had an even better team in 2015. This Kentucky team went undefeated until losing to a great Wisconsin team in the Final Four. They had Karl-Anthony Towns, again the top pick in the next NBA draft.
After an awful 9-16 campaign last season, you figure Calipari would reload with another set of future pros. Nope.
Instead, Kentucky is thriving due to transfers:
- 6’9″ Oscar Tshiebwe (West Virginia) leads the nation in offensive and defensive rebounding rate.
- 6’5″ Kellan Grady (Davidson) is shooting 43% from 3.
- 5’9″ Sahvir Wheeler (Georgia) runs the show.
Calipari didn’t intentionally make it seem like he started shopping at Walmart for his suits.
He did recruit guard TyTy Washington, a key piece of this team and a player projected as a top 10 NBA pick. Also, he brought in McDonald’s All-American Daimion Collins, but the 6’9″ player has had a limited role behind Tshiebwe.
Despite these top recruits, Oscar Tchiebwe is the best player on this team. However, he is not considered a high NBA draft pick. Various mock drafts have him going at the end of the first round to not getting selected in either of two rounds.
At Tennessee, Tchiebwe struggled against the length of taller players on both ends of the floor. He gave up easy baskets on defense and had his shot blocked multiple times on offense. Despite these struggles, he still had 15 rebounds, close to his ridiculous 15.3 average for the season.
While Kentucky has lost 6 games, this is mostly due to a difficult schedule. They opened the season with a loss to Duke, possibly the most talented team in the country. It’s also easy to explain road SEC losses to LSU, Auburn, Tennessee and Arkansas, all top 20 teams in my college basketball team rankings.
Kentucky thrives on offense, as they rank 3rd in my adjusted points per possession. Led by Tshiebwe, the Wildcats have the best adjusted offensive rebounding rate in the nation. Grady is a magnificent three point shooter.
Kentucky is not as good on defense. The Wildcats rank 16th, and they have slipped from a higher ranking earlier this season. At times, Kentucky seems disorganized on defense.
Overall, Kentucky 7th in my member college basketball rankings. Despite not having elite talent and some warts on defense, these numbers suggest Kentucky will to be a threat in both the SEC and NCAA tournament.