It’s Football Season, So Time for a Little Basketball

Both college and NFL football are back in full swing.  My Bengals are looking to be especially bad this year and my Kentucky Wildcats just had a tough loss last weekend to Florida.  So, naturally, it’s time to start talking about college basketball.

As a Kentucky basketball fan, we’re always expecting an extraordinary season and this year will be no exception.  With the combination of freshman talent and returning players, the Cats are predicted by most to be a top 5 team this coming year.  I’ve got season tickets, so I hope to see as many games as possible.

Before we start the season, I figured I should get a baseline for where the Cats are with respect to the rest of college basketball.  I went and found a handful of the “way too early” 2019-20 rankings for the teams.  I put together a spreadsheet and did some averages and here is how the field looks to start the year.  In reverse order and I’ll paste the data below my list.  And, spoiler alert, it looks like the Champions Classic is going to have #1 v. #2 to start the year.

39. Vermont

38. Houston

37. USC

36. Penn State

35. Wisconsin

34. Colorado

33. Providence

32. Davidson

31.  VCU

30. LSU

29. Michigan

28. Marquette

27. Auburn

26. St. Mary’s

25. Washington

24. Tennessee

23. Georgetown

22. Utah State

21. Illinois

20. Baylor

19. Xavier

18. Arizona

17. Ohio State

16. Purdue

15. Oregon

14. Memphis

13. Seton Hall

12. Virginia

11. North Carolina

10. Texas Tech

9. Gonzaga

8. Villanova

7. Florida

6. Maryland

5. Louisville

4. Kansas

3. Duke

2. Kentucky

1. Michigan State

 

NBC Sports – 9/4 ESPN – 9/12 Katz – 9/10 CBS – 8/13 SI – 6/5
Michigan State 1 1 1 1 1 1
Kentucky 2 3 3 3 2 2.6
Duke 3 6 4 2 3 3.6
Kansas 4 2 2 5 6 3.8
Louisville 6 5 9 4 4 5.6
Maryland 7 10 5 6 7 7
Florida 10 4 8 9 17 9.6
Villanova 5 11 14 13 5 9.6
Gonzaga 11 9 11 11 8 10
Texas Tech 9 12 7 14 10 10.4
North Carolina 13 8 10 8 14 10.6
Virginia 8 16 12 10 11 11.4
Seton Hall 12 15 6 12 13 11.6
Memphis 21 14 13 7 12 13.4
Oregon 15 7 22 15 22 16.2
Purdue 16 17 16.5
Ohio State 25 13 18 21 9 17.2
Arizona 16 18 22 15 17.75
Baylor 20 17 17 20 21 19
Illinois 19 19
Xavier 18 20 15 23 19
Utah State 14 19 23 24 16 19.2
Georgetown 20 20
Tennessee 23 NR 19 21
Washington NR 23 21 20 21.3333333333333
St. Mary’s 17 21 26 25 18 21.4
Auburn 22 NR 24 16 25 21.75
Marquette NR 22 25 23.5
Michigan 24 24
LSU 19 25 35 26 19 24.8
VCU 24 NR 33 18 25
Davidson 28 23 25.5
Providence 27 27
Colorado NR 24 31 27.5
Wisconsin 29 29
Penn State 30 30
USC 32 32
Houston 34 34
Vermont 36 36

 

Is Johnny Juzang the Next Devin Booker

Or is he maybe the next Tyler Herro?  Or Eric Bledsoe?

It’s not a secret that a lot of John Calipari’s success as a college basketball coach is due to his recruiting prowess.  He has a long track record of bringing in high level recruits, the so-called “one and dones,” and putting together a team which can compete for a national title by the end of the season.

Coach Cal has also proven adept at identifying players who are not thought of as “one and dones” but who, by the end of the year, have played themselves into position to be drafted in the first round of the NBA draft.  Sometimes Cal himself is surprised by this.  The story goes that Cal pegged Eric Bledsoe as a guy who would stick around for more than one year.  Instead, Bledsoe when #18 in the draft that year.  I think you can tell a similar story about Devin Booker and Tyler Herro.  Neither of those guys came in with “one and done” buzz, but Booker ended up being drafted #13 to Phoenix and Herro was drafted #13 to Miami.

Now, the question here is whether these guys are examples of Cal identifying a pro prospect that, for some reason, is farther down the rankings than you might expect based on where they were drafted.  Or, do these guys get the benefit of the doubt due to Cal’s track record with NBA prospects?  Or is it an example of the proficiency of Cal and his staff in developing guys for the league?

Probably a combination of all of these factors.  But how does this track record help us set our expectations for guys on this year’s team and in the future?  I think this year, the guy who fits the mold the best is Johnny Juzang.  Compare him to Bledsoe, Booker and Herro.  They’re all perimeter players.  Bledsoe is a little bit anomalous since he’s not a great shooter, but Juzang, Booker and Herro all have reps as knock down shooters.  Bledsoe was ranked 68 coming out of high school.  Booker was 22 and Herro was 37.  Where’s Juzang? He’s ranked 32.  None of these guys were pegged as obvious “one and dones” coming out of high school and, I think, the same goes for Juzang.  Except, maybe now that he’s at Kentucky, should we expect to have him only one year?  I think the answer is yes.