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What’s with all the ‘Kentucky’s undefeated season’ talk?

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Maybe it’s because it’s August and there isn’t much else to talk about, and maybe it’s because anything written about Kentucky on the internet is sure to garner clicks, but it seems as if Kentucky going undefeated in 2013-2014 has become a thing that everyone is talking about.

Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com said he thinks Kentucky will go 40-0 on Kentucky Sports Radio last week. Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News and Nicole Auerbach of USA Today both penned responses that more or less list the hurdles that the Wildcats will have to clear to make it that far.

The guy that started all of this?

Well, John Calipari.

“We’re chasing perfection. We’re chasing greatness. We’re chasing things that have never been done in the history of our game,” Calipari said during a May news conference. “I don’t mind a little pressure. I’ve had it my whole career. I’ve had the gun to my head for 20-something years. And you know what? I’m at my best when the gun is to my head.”

And frankly, the chatter isn’t unwarranted. Kentucky has seven or eight guys that could end up being first round picks whenever they enter the NBA Draft, which is as much talent as we’ve seen on one team in recent memory. They also happen to play in the SEC, which is a league that offers up just one other team — Florida — that has a real shot of being a Final Four team. If Jeronne Maymon can’t get healthy, Missouri’s newcomers don’t mesh with their returnees, and LSU doesn’t live up to some of their offseason hype, there’s a chance that UK and UF are the only two tournament teams in the league.

That makes for an easy stretch run, doesn’t it?

But there are a couple of things to remember here:

1. There’s a reason no one has gone undefeated since 1976: It’s not an easy thing to do, especially for a team that’s essentially made up of freshmen and unproven sophomores. Every single game that Kentucky plays this season will be the biggest game of the year for whoever they are playing. It’s been like that since John Calipari arrived in Lexington, but that a) doesn’t make the process any easier and b) has nothing to do with the crop of newcomers coming to campus this season.

2. Michigan State is going to be really good: Trips to North Carolina and Florida are going to be tough games to win, and beating the defending national champs in Rupp is not going to be an easy thing to do, but I’d say that the most difficult game on Kentucky’s schedule this season will be their November 12th matchup with the Spartans in the Champions Classic. The Spartans are not only a top five team in the country and a favorite to win the Big Ten and make the Final Four, but they are a veteran group whose core has been together for a couple of years now. They’ve been through the ringer together. They also happen to have arguably the best game-planner in the country in Tom Izzo.

Kentucky is young. This will be the first time that this group of freshmen is playing on a college game on national TV against a team that’s any good. It will be at the United Center, and will be the third game that the Cats play in a five-day stretch. That’s a tough matchup that early in the season.

3. Are there enough shots to go around?: I’ve said this time and again, but the single biggest concern I have for Kentucky this season is that there may simply be too much talent on this roster. The reason that the 2012 team was so good was that their two best players — the top two picks in the 2012 NBA Draft — were essentially glorified role players. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis didn’t need to get a certain number of shots. They defended and they hustled and they set the tone for that team.

And this year’s group has more talent than the 2012 team. No one can convince a star to play a role like Coach Cal can, but this will be his toughest job to date.

Honestly, I hope that Kentucky makes a run at going undefeated. How much fun will their matchup with Florida to end the regular season be with a perfect regular season on the line? Imagine a Final Four with Kentucky playing Duke or Louisville with an undefeated record on the line. That’d be awesome.

It’s not often that we see history in sports, and that’s fun for fans (and for writers!!!), but if we’re being completely honest, I think that 40-0 is going to be much more difficult to achieve that Big Blue Nation realizes.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Villanova’s Jenkins to return for senior season

Villanova forward Kris Jenkins (2) reacts to play against North Carolina during the second half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
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After briefly taking part in the NBA Draft evaluation process, Villanova forward Kris Jenkins announced Monday night that he’s decided to withdraw and return to school for his senior year. Jenkins, whose three-pointer as time expired gave the Wildcats the win over North Carolina in the national title game, announced the news via Twitter.

2015-16 was a breakout season for Jenkins, who moved into the starting lineup and averaged 13.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. The 6-foot-6 forward shot 45.9 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from beyond the arc, and with starters Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu graduating he’ll have even more opportunities to produce next season.

Jenkins’ decision to return leaves wing Josh Hart as the lone Wildcats going through the early entry process at this time. Hart was a first team All-Big East selection as a junior, and his return would be the final piece to the puzzle for a team that many expect to be a national title contender in 2016-17.

Jenkins and Hart wouldn’t be the only returnees who had a part in the national title run, with guards Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth, wing Mikal Bridges and forward Darryl Reynolds back as well. To that group Villanova adds Fordham transfer Eric Paschall and a recruiting class anchored by Omari Spellman and Dylan Painter with Donte DiVincenzo and Tim Delaney available after being hampered by injuries last season.

Delaney missed all of last year after undergoing surgical procedures on his hips, and DiVincenzo played a total of 74 minutes over the first nine games before having to sit due to a broken foot.

Florida State guard Rathan-Mayes to return for junior season

Florida State guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes (22) drives past Notre Dame guard Rex Pflueger, left, for a score in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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With their top three scorers from last season all deciding to declare for the NBA Draft, Florida State was facing the possibility of having to rebuild their backcourt ahead of the 2016-17 season. However two of those three have decided to return to Tallahassee, with rising junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes announcing on Monday that he will be back in school.

Rathan-Mayes joins rising sophomore Dwayne Bacon in returning to play another season for head coach Leonard Hamilton, with Malik Beasley hiring representation and remaining in the draft.

Rathan-Mayes had more scoring help last season and as a result was able to concentrate more on the distribution aspects of the point guard position, as he averaged 11.8 points and 4.4 assists per contest. With the return of Rathan-Mayes and Bacon, Florida State will have two of its top three scorers from last season back on campus.

The Seminoles did lose some veteran players, most notably guard Devon Bookert and center Boris Bojanovsky, but the returnees and a recruiting class led by McDonald’s All-American forward Jonathan Isaac means that they won’t lack for options next season.

Auburn lands third transfer within the last week

Auburn guard T.J. Dunans (4) and coach Bruce Pearl celebrate a 75-74 win over UAB in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala.  (Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP)
Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP
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After receiving commitments from former Purdue/Houston guard Ronnie Johnson and former Presbyterian forward DeSean Murray, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl continued to load up on the transfer market Monday. Forward LaRon Smith, who was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year at Bethune-Cookman last season, announced that he will use his final season of eligibility at the SEC program.

Like Smith, Johnson will also be eligible to compete immediately for the Tigers while Murray will have to sit out next season before having two years of eligibility remaining.

The 6-foot-8 Smith played two seasons at Georgia State before transferring to Bethune-Cookman, where he averaged 7.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per contest in 2015-16. Smith played just over 25 minutes per game for the Wildcats, shooting 58.5 percent from the field.

Smith reached double figures in scoring in four of the Wildcats’ final seven games, including a 20-point, 11-rebound, three-block outing in an overtime win over North Carolina A&T. He joins a front court in need of depth following the departures of the likes of Cinmeon Bowers and Tyler Harris, with Horace Spencer, Trayvon Reed and incoming freshman Anfernee McLemore also competing for minutes in 2016-17.

SMU lands former Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt

Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt (24) leaps for a layup past Tennessee guard Shembari Phillips (25) during an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. Arkansas won 75-65. (Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)
Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP
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With a five-member recruiting class set to arrive on campus this summer, SMU added a talented transfer Monday afternoon. Jimmy Whitt, who played his freshman season at Arkansas, committed to join Larry Brown’s program. Whitt, a 6-foot-4 guard from Columbia, Missouri, will have three seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2016-17 campaign.

As a freshman at Arkansas, Whitt averaged 6.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in just over 17 minutes of action per game. He reached double figures in scoring nine time, with the high being a 15-point outing in a blowout win over Missouri in mid-January. Whitt produced a stretch of four consecutive games in double figures during non-conference play, but he struggled to maintain that consistency against SEC competition.

At SMU he’ll join a perimeter rotation that will lose rising senior Sterling Brown following the 2016-17 season. Among those who will have eligibility remaining when Whitt becomes eligible are Ben Emelogu, Shake Milton, Jarrey Foster and incoming freshmen Tom Wilson and Dashawn McDowell.

 

Boise State assistant named head coach at Northern Colorado

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Courtesy UNCBears.com
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GREELEY, Colo. (AP) Jeff Linder is the new basketball coach at Northern Colorado. He spent the last six seasons at Boise State, where he was associate head coach for the Broncos since 2013-14.

Linder replaces B.J. Hill, who was fired last month amid an NCAA investigation into allegations of violations in the program.

University President Kay Norton and Athletic Director Darren Dunn announced Linder’s hiring Sunday.

Linder played high school ball in Lafayette, Colorado, and college ball at Mesa State and Western Colorado State. He began his coaching career under Colorado head coach Ricardo Patton.

In a statement, Linder said, “I look forward to returning home to the state of Colorado and continuing to build this program into something everyone can be proud of.”

Hill was 86-98 in six seasons at UNC.