The 2012 NBA draft was a familiar scene.
Kentucky players heard their names called in suitably historic fashion -- Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist became the first teammates of the modern era to be selected Nos. 1 and 2 overall -- en route to an expected six total selections, four of which came in the first round. As during his Memphis tenure, and as in 2010 (when John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins both went in the top five) and 2011 (when Brandon Knight led the way) John Calipari was on the draft floor, smiling and hugging and soaking up the countless brand-oriented benefits that come with being at the center of yet another massive NBA draft haul.
This has become the routine for Calipari: Recruit some of the best prospects in the country, accelerate their cohesion and development, make a run at a national title, send them to the NBA draft, rinse, repeat. Whether you believe Calipari can claim credit for developing NBA players or merely recruiting them (I tend to fall on Jay Bilas's side of the argument, but there is some gray area there) the process has become an annual tradition.
There's no reason to expect anything different in 2013.
This morning, I planned to do a more in-depth, listy look at the teams who could challenge Kentucky for most populous draft classes in 2013 -- but, as usual, the pool of challengers looks slim. As Chad Ford wrote in his 2013 lookahead this weekend, Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel is the early favorite to be the No. 1 overall selection in next year's draft. Even if that doesn't pan out -- scouts already really love Indiana's Cody Zeller, and Zeller should only improve as as sophomore -- it's unlikely we'll see Noel drop much further than the top five. Meanwhile, incoming Kentucky freshman Alex Poythress is ranked No. 5 in Ford's 2013 top 100, while classmate Archie Goodwin comes in at No. 17 overall. Throw in power forward Kyle Wiltjer, and point guard Ryan Harrow, both of whom could have big seasons in starting roles, and while the Wildcats' talent won't come anywhere close to 2012's heights, it's clear they are still the leaders in the 2013 NBA draft clubhouse.
The closest any squad comes to matching the breadth and depth of UK's potential draft offerings per Ford's top 100 is UCLA. Shabazz Muhammed is a top-five talent, fellow freshman guard Kyle Anderson is ranked No. 15, and there are mock drafts that list forward Joshua Smith as a potential lottery pick (provided he can slim down and harness all the potential in that massive frame).
That's the closest challenger. Those UCLA players (and coach Ben Howland) have much to prove before that comes to fruition, and elite draft picks have not always thrived in Howland's traditional downtempo system. That's true of everyone in next year's draft, of course, and obviously it's much too early to start counting up draft picks. We're still an entire year, and an entire college hoops season, away.
But as of now, it would appear that what's been true of Kentucky under Calipari since he took the job will remain true next summer, too. If any other program matches UK's concentrated draft accolades, it won't just be an expected random blip. It will be a major surprise.