John Calipari's biggest test yet
Reaching a Final Four with so much roster turnover would be historic
John Calipari has been the head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats for a little more than 600 days, and in that short time he has seen much roster turnover. You could legitimately say he has driven that amount of turnover.
Players like Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith have been around the Duke Blue Devils seemingly forever, but in Lexington, things are a little livelier in terms of personnel. For UK fans, stars like John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe are here one year and gone the next.
Constantly churning rosters seem like a bad thing on the surface, but Calipari has pretty clearly carved out a new template for success in the one-and-done era. In Coach Cal's hands, roster turnover is a blessing -- it means the talent is too good to hang around.
Calipari's biggest accomplishment: He gets that top-tier talent to play defense. Last season, Kentucky labored under a persistent misapprehension that it was some kind of explosive offensive team; in fact, the Wildcats' offense was only as good as Florida's and was even a little worse than Vanderbilt's in SEC play. But UK's defense was on a different level entirely. The Cats played the best D the SEC has seen since LSU's 2006 Final Four team, led by Tyrus Thomas and Glen "Big Baby" Davis.
This season, Calipari once again has a team that is extremely young and extremely talented. If anything, the Wildcats play younger this season. Last season, at least there was a graybeard like Patrick Patterson on hand. This season, the offense in Lexington is supplied almost entirely by freshmen, namely Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb. And judging by performances like Jones' 27-point, 17-rebound double-double against Notre Dame on Wednesday night, relying on freshmen might not be such a bad thing.
So, can a team as young as the 2010-11 Wildcats make the Final Four?
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John Gasaway has written for Basketball Prospectus since its inception in 2007. His college hoops commentary appears weekly on ESPN Insider. John's writing has also appeared at SportsIllustrated.com, as well as in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Playboy.