Hoops freshmen raise the bar

May, 8, 2012
5/08/12
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ESPN.com's Myron Medcalf takes a look Kentucky's run to the title. Freshmen led the way and as Medcalf writes, it changed things for programs and recruits alike.

Kentucky's freshman-led push to the national championship increased the pressure that recruits next season and beyond will encounter as soon as they sign. For next season's top freshmen, reaching Atlanta, site of the Final Four in 2013, won't impress. National championships are the expectations now.

Before Kentucky won the program's eighth national title, freshmen had proved that they were elite and capable of winning it all.

The Fab Five should have done it twice. Carmelo Anthony starred in Syracuse's national title game victory over a veteran Kansas squad in 2003.

But the NBA's age limit changed the bar. Coaches grabbed talented prep kids who had no plans to stay beyond one season. Here, and then, gone. No time to jell. No time to fix the kinks. Only in-season development plans, because they knew these stars weren't coming back.

Some of those young teams came close. Others missed the mark.

Texas, of course, had its share of one-and-done players led by Kevin Durant. Like Durant, Medcalf writes, most freshmen-starred team went home without the title.

Now the times have changed. Thanks to Kentucky and coach John Calipari's ability to attract loads of top freshmen and quickly mold them into a unit, expectations have grown:

One coach has found the winning formula, but relying on first-year stars rarely results in titles.

That's because experience, chemistry and self-composure -- characteristics typically attained by young players over time -- always matter when the lights come on. Even the most mature, skilled freshmen tend to struggle in the final chapter of the college basketball season.

... But Kentucky's national title prompted an increased level of expectation that incoming recruiting classes won't escape, even if it's an unfair standard.

It's not "you can" win it all. It's "you should" win it all.


To read the full story, click here.

We'll have to wait until March to see if the Longhorns' No. 4-ranked recruiting class can live up to those high standards.

The one-and-done trend is also affecting how Kentucky handles its future schedules, writes Andy Katz:

The team's constantly changing roster is filled with a handful of potential one-and-done players every season. That means the Wildcats can't be committed long-term to four-year true home-and-home series.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has had a history of playing neutral-site games against quality opponents. He usually plays games at NCAA tournament sites to gain some sort of familiarity for his team.

... Kentucky has done similar home-and-home series in which the return game is on a "neutral court."

Calipari wants the Wildcats to pursue scheduling opportunities that mimic the NCAA tournament.

The Indiana-Kentucky game in Assembly Hall in Bloomington was an epic finish last December. Those types of regular-season games are hard to duplicate. Put the same game in a neutral court/stadium, and there is the potential for a more sterile atmosphere.


It's certainly a way to ramp up a freshman's experience with travel, large arenas and big opponents.

Read the full story here.

While Texas' full basketball schedule has not been released, the Longhorns do play Georgetown in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 4.






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