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By LARRY VAUGHT
While many other college basketball writers/analysts have Kentucky projected as a top five team going into next season, Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook editor Chris Dortch isnâ€™t sure his preseason publication will have UKâ€ˆquite that high.
Dortch joked that CBSSports.com writers Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish already have put UKâ€ˆNo. 1 in their preseason poll. ESPNâ€™s Dick Vitale has the Wildcats in the top three.
â€œI think they have a lot more faith in freshmen than I do,â€ said Dortch. â€œIâ€ˆjust donâ€™t know how high we will rank Kentucky in our poll. I would have to say Kentucky will definitely be the class of the Southeastern Conference again. (Florida coach) Billy Donovan canâ€™t get another post player and they have to get one to match Kentucky.â€
However, Dortch isnâ€™t sure those that are dismissing the SEC as Kentucky and a bunch of also-rans because of player defections to the NBA and graduation losses other teams suffered are right.
â€œTennessee is going to be good and will have a great four-man post rotation that will give teams a lot of trouble,â€ Dortch said. â€œ(Tennessee coach) Cuonzo Martin wants his kids bigger and stronger, and they will be good. I think Alabama will be pretty good. Missouri will not far off too far, either.
â€œI still think from a raw talent standpoint, Kentucky will have the most talent. But what does that mean without having two warriors like Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist like UKâ€ˆdid last year? It seems like (freshman) Archie Goodwin can be that way again. (Nerlens) Noel is obviously a guy that does not think he has to score, so that is big. So I think they are going to be pretty good.â€
So does another SEC coach that I talked to about UK.
The Cats probably will have a starting lineup of transfer Ryan Harrow at point guard, Goodwin at shooting guard, freshman Alex Poythress at small forward, sophomore Kyle Wiltjer at power forward and Noel at center. Transfer Julius Mays will back up Harrow and Goodwin while freshman Willie Cauley-Stein will provide depth at power forward and center. Goodwin will likely play small forward at times and senior Jon Hood can play multiple spots.
â€œHow many coaches in the country would like to have that talent? I can tell you â€” almost every one. Those are four- and five-star recruits that can all play. Sure, they are going to be young but hasnâ€™t Cal always said heâ€™ll take talent over experience, and heâ€™ll have talent almost any coach would love to have.â€
Heâ€™s right. Despite losing some spring recruits â€” and on one but Calipari and his staff know if UKâ€ˆpursued certain players as most UKâ€ˆfans want to believe or not â€” Calipari has a rotation as deep as the ones heâ€™s had the last two years when the Cats made the Final Four both times. The bigger issue will be lack of proven experience. There will be no Darius Miller, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, DeAndre Liggins or Josh Harrellson on this team. Still, talent is talent.
â€œI will probably have to put them in the top five,â€ Dortch said. â€œFew teams will have more raw talent than Kentucky and Calipari knows how to use that talent. So even if I donâ€™t put them in the top five to start the season because of having so many freshmen, that doesnâ€™t mean they could not easily get there and back to another Final Four because I think the talent will be that good.â€