Tuesday night was the perfect ending to Kentucky's 2012-13 "Back to Earth" World Tour: an upset loss to Robert Morris in John Calipari's hometown of Moon Township, Pa., punctuated by the first and most fun NIT court-storm I can remember.
The schadenfreude went viral faster than "Pig Saves Goat." Twitter was ablaze with the usual helping of snark available whenever a top program falls to a rival, but with a little something extra: The steamroller that was the 2011-12 Wildcats may have been perfectly likable, but their coach has always seemed all but his own fans the wrong way, and on Tuesday night, the Internet was happy to pile on.
I hope y'all enjoyed it, because in 2013-14 Kentucky is probably going to be the best team in the country. It is certainly going to be the most talented.
Less than 15 hours from court-storm in Moon Township, Kentucky received a commitment from Julius Randle, the No. 1-ranked power forward and No. 3-ranked overall recruit in the class of 2013. Which would be really impressive, and a really nice way to bounce back from an awful end to the season, were it not merely one more insane addition to Calipari's already insane recruiting class. I'll let ESPN senior national recruiting analyst Dave Telep hit you with the knowledge:
Randle joins No. 1 point guard Andrew Harrison, No. 1 shooting guard Aaron Harrison, No. 1 center Dakari Johnson, No. 3 small forward James Young, No. 9 power forward Marcus Lee and three-star power forward Derek Willis in the Wildcats' 2013 class. Randle, Young and the Harrison twins are all top-10 overall recruits, while Johnson and Lee are in the top 20.
The addition of Randle also steers Kentucky into unprecedented recruiting territory. The Wildcats have assembled, on paper, the No. 1 recruiting class of all-time.
This group of Wildcats is comprised of six top-20 recruits, four of whom are the No. 1 player at their respective position. Previously, Michigan's 1991 "Fab Five" class had been the standard bearer for recruiting classes. UK's group is larger, deeper and more talented.
"Larger, deeper and more talented" … than the Fab Five. Just marinate with that one for a second. Swish it around in your mouth. Take it all in.
Randle, or any one of those recruits, would constitute a great year for any other program. The Harrisons are a package Sedin-twins-esque point guard/shooting guard duo that would have pushed Mark Turgeon's Maryland rebuild into overdrive. Young is already a gifted left-handed scorer with deep range. Johnson can have an immediate low-post impact in any league in the country; Lee is an athletic freak who might have the highest long-term ceiling of the bunch. And Kentucky could still be in the mix to get what most people believe to be the best prep player in the country at any age, and the best since LeBron James, in Andrew Wiggins.
Calipari still has to figure out which of this year's players will be back, including NBA early entries and transfers. After Tuesday night's loss, a wave of Kentucky players tweeted their desire to stay, or that they weren't ready for the NBA (you think so, doctor?). But it is worth asking whether Calipari even wants any of these players back. As he told The Courier-Journal Tuesday night:
"The stuff I had to accept this year, the program almost got hijacked," Calipari said. "Never in my career have I surrendered in any way to any team, and I did at times this year — to try to save guys, to try to help guys — and it never works."
If Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, Ryan Harrow and the rest return for another season, it's safe to wonder whether they'd even play, or how much. It couldn't hurt to have a group of sophomores around to work with all of those talented freshmen. Remember, 2011-12 had sophs Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb, and senior Darius Miller, all of whom were crucial to UK's title run. But "hijack" is a pretty strong word to use. Wouldn't Calipari want a clean slate? And if the players don't want to leave, and he doesn't want them back, how does he get under the scholarship limit with provoking at least a minor outcry about runoffs?
But these are all minor concerns, really. The larger point is that Calipari has his fourth top-ranked recruiting class in five years at Kentucky on the way, and this one might not just be the best of his tenure but the best all time. Oh, and that famous chip on his shoulder? That notion that the whole world is doubting him? That's back in Lexington, too:
"The only good news is, because we have this group coming in, they’re not going to be No. 1 in the country, because they’ll say, ‘Well, maybe you can’t do it with young guys,’" Calipari said Tuesday. "And I come back to, 'We did it last year, won a national title with young players.' But that’ll be out there. So we have something to prove.
"If there’s any doubters, have at it. You can doubt all you want. This program’s in great shape. Kids across the country still want to come here. It’s all good.”
Whether they're "doubters" (ugh) or a world of people that enjoys seeing big bad Kentucky take one on the chin — hey, >even Wikipedia got in on the act — let's hope everybody got it out of their system Tuesday night. Because the LOLCats are officially finished, and next season Calipari's kids are getting back into the family business: steamrolling.