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By LARRY VAUGHT
Give ESPN.com’s Jason King credit for altering his college basketball rankings after Andrew Wiggins picked Kansas but not overreacting and taking Kentucky, Louisville or Michigan State out of his top three picks. Of course, he valued Wiggins so much that he raised Kansas, which has no starters returning, all the way to No. 5.
Here’s what he wrote about Kentucky: Could the Wildcats really go from first-round NIT losers to NCAA champions? Absolutely. Kentucky’s 2013 recruiting class is already being hailed as the best in college basketball history. The haul includes five players (Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson and James Young) ranked among the nation’s top 10 prospects by ESPN.com. Even without Andrew Wiggins, this may be the most talented college basketball team ever assembled. But will it jell? Even though injuries and chemistry issues ruined his most recent team, John Calipari has proved to be excellent at coaching players who plan to spend only a year or two in college. He’s great at getting them to play defense and share the ball. It will help that some of Kentucky’s key players in 2012-13 (Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kyle Wiltjer) will return to provide veteran leadership, which is something the program sorely lacked last season.
And here’s his update on Kansas: Before Wiggins committed, Kansas appeared as if it would enter the season as a fringe top 25 team after losing all five starters from a squad that went 31-6 last season. But with Wiggins in the mix, the Jayhawks may be good enough to contend for the NCAA title. It may take a while for them to jell: Wiggins will be one of six freshmen on the youngest team coach Bill Self has had at KU. But it also will be one of his most talented. Self has led Kansas to nine straight Big 12 titles and averaged 30 wins in his 10 seasons in Lawrence. No matter what, he’s going to find a way to win. This particular team will lean heavily on rising sophomore Perry Ellis — who seemed to get more comfortable near the end of the season — as well as returning backups Jamari Traylor and Naadir Tharpe. KU’s veterans must provide leadership for a recruiting class that features Wiggins; a McDonald’s All American in Wayne Selden; a talented-but-raw center in Joel Embiid; and pair of sharpshooters in Conner Frankamp and Brennan Greene. Incoming freshman Frank Mason could challenge Tharpe for the starting point guard job. Wiggins will play small forward for a squad that’s still hoping to add Memphis transfer Tarik Black in the paint.
Personally, I can’t argue with him about UK or Kansas.