ESPN’s college basketball writing team has an offseason series called “Sales Pitch” where they rank the best programs in the sport based on their sales pitches. Earlier this week the series had comments from anonymous coaches about recruiting throughout the SEC, and John Calipari’s program was all alone in Tier 1 of the conversation.
Now “Sales Pitch” is back on ESPN.com and this time they’re taking a look at Kentucky and asking, “Is Kentucky’s recruiting stranglehold on the SEC slipping?”
The crew of Myron Medcalf, Jeff Borzello, John Gasaway and Joe Lunardi debated Kentucky’s struggles and whether or not the miserable 2020-21 season was an anomaly. Both Myron Medcalf and Jeff Borzello took the stance that last season wasn’t an anomaly, rather a change in times from the days of Kentucky and Duke splitting the top prospects each year.
Borzello has what I consider the correct take in this excerpt from his side of the conversation:
Six or seven years ago, we could take the top 10 prospects in the country, roughly split them up between Duke and Kentucky, throw a few to Kansas and Arizona and North Carolina, and it wouldn’t be too wrong.
It’s different now. Top prospects are being spread out to far more programs than they were a decade ago, and it’s led to a more level playing field. Sure, Duke and Kentucky will still get top-ranked recruiting classes — but there’s a huge difference between getting Nos. 3, 5, 8, 10 and 17 in the rankings and getting Nos. 7, 10, 26, 34 and 46. John Calipari could make up for inexperience when he had talent that was so superior to most of his opponents. Last year, there was inexperience and a lack of overwhelming talent.
Joe Lunardi saw it the other way. Mr. Bracketology blamed the heavily-restricted COVID season with no fans.
“For me, it wasn’t a coincidence that Kentucky and Duke — arguably the most notable “one-and-done” programs in the country — missed the NCAA tournament last season,” Lunardi wrote. “It’s also no coincidence that many of the most veteran-laden, “together” teams — we’re looking at you, Gonzaga and Baylor — were among the last ones standing. I’m not denying any of the reasoning of my esteemed colleagues going forward, but last season’s results seem fairly easy to explain.”
For the other cases and debates on other SEC matters, like LSU’s strong-ass offers, read more in the new “Sales Pitch” on ESPN.com. Note: It is behind a paywall, so there’s that.