Kentucky's 35-3 campaign ended by way of a brick-laying catastrophe in Syracuse on Saturday night. It was a great run. For those Wildcats fans who will spend the next week in a malaise, let me remind you the 73-66 loss to West Virginia marked the one-year anniversary of Billy Gillispie's firing, in which he showed us his not-so-graceful exit.
An Elite Eight appearance with a prominent national coach is quite a turnaround for this program, which boasts a fanbase that's as crazed and expectation-driven as any (regardless of sport) in the country. There are bright days, seemingly, ahead for Kentucky. Why? Because John Calipari is a proven dogged and successful recruiter. So successful, in fact, that the talent he brings in isn't always prone to stick around more than a couple of semesters.
Let's look at the underclassmen (specifically the freshmen) on this year's team and try to handicap who will and will not come back.
Percentages are based on probability said players will put on a Kentucky uniform come November.
John Wall (5 percent). A near-lock to be selected first or second overall in the NBA draft in June, Wall would be a fool to stay. In fact, his coach said so earlier this season. What faint glimmer of hope is there for UK fans? It's been said by Calipari that Wall is the hardest worker in the classroom and has the highest GPA on the team. It's not going to be enough to make him want to pass up millions of dollars, but I'm sayin' there's a chance! Plus, who wants to play for the Nets?
DeMarcus Cousins (5 percent). I put Cousins on equal footing with Wall because he's also a guaranteed high pick, and one many believe will go in the top five. He'd only return if Wall did, so the odds of that become smaller and smaller. These two certainly seem like a package deal. Plus, with all Cousins has had to put up with this year (has anyone been beaten up more in a game than him?), why would he return to college? Have we forgotten about the racial voicemails and text messages? Cousins could be travelling on private jets and not worrying about frat boys hassling him on a week-in, week-out basis. His maturity was once an issue, but he's seemingly been able to rein in his once-boorish behavior.
Eric Bledsoe (20 percent). Bledsoe's ceiling is what still keeps him a lottery pick this year, because he certainly didn't play enough/well enough from November to March to earn lottery money. He is a point guard, and one who had to defer to Wall all season long. Does Bledsoe wait a year, try and put UK on his back and up his stock to a top-five pick? It's definitely something he should and will consider. Then again, Calipari is taking no chances on keeping Bledsoe, as he's trying to bring in the next top-ranked point guard in the country, Brandon Knight. Will Bledsoe's decision affect Knight's choice of college and vice-versa? A chicken-egg situation.
Daniel Orton (50 percent). A power in the post, Orton, right now, is seen as a late first-rounder. But in playing behind Patrick Patterson and Cousins, he didn't see as much time as he may have expected in his freshman year. Orton seems like a bright kid with a level head. It would behoove him to stay another year and try to play himself into a lottery pick. John Calipari would much prefer that as well. Putting this at a coin flip because if UK brings in a monster class, as expected, Orton may want to bolt with his fellow freshman fellas to complete the mass exodus.
Patrick Patterson (5 percent). Patterson is a junior who will graduate in three years. He's seen as a lottery pick, so there's no chance he's coming back unless everyone else does, which is not happening. We're only including him on this list because he's had such a storied (for good and for bad with what Gillispie tried to make him into) career at Kentucky. He loves the school and is one of the most beloved players from the past 10 years to put on a Big Blue uni. Unheralded, somewhat, Patterson diversified his NBA portfolio this year and turned himself into a lottery pick.
- John Calipari