While there likely are a few Kentucky fans still basking in the glory of the school’s eighth national title, with practice beginning on Friday the focus for many turns to what John Calipari’s team can do for an encore.
Stars such as Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Doron Lamb (just to name three) are now in the NBA, but the Wildcats’ ability to reload on the recruiting trail has folks thinking that a repeat is possible.
And with that in mind, artist Henry Ogirri recorded the anthem for this year’s team, “Drive for 9.”
And while there’s definitely a high level of excitement for what Kentucky can accomplish next year with the Harrison twins committing, the Wildcats have the talent necessary to pick up another title this season.
Freshman center Nerlens Noel (don’t compare him to Anthony Davis) leads the way along with classmates Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress, and sophomores Ryan Harrow (NC State transfer) and Kyle Wiltjer will also factor into the rotation.
Kentucky doesn’t have much in the way of experience (Wright State transfer Julius Mays and Twany Beckham are the lone Wildcats in their final year of eligibility) but that didn’t stop them last season.
Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.
The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.
It wasn’t pretty.
And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.
Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.
The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.
But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.
POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry