I have to start my tradition a day early because I'll be on the road tomorrow preparing to run my first marathon.
Tomorrow marks the beginning of NCAA basketball and the spectacle of "Midnight" Madness celebrations around the nation. Near and dear to my Big Blue heart is the celebration in Lexington, KY hosted by John Calipari.
How do you deal with losing 5 players to the first round of the NBA draft? You bring in the number 1 recruiting class in the country for the second year in a row.
There will never be another John Wall, but Brandon Knight can be the first Brandon Knight. He's a 4.0 student, a McDonald's All-American, and Cal's next point guard.
Patrick Patterson will be missed, but Terrence Jones will help ease the loss and is frankly a better fit for the dribble drive offense. Another MDAA, Jones is versatile and will be hard for most 4's to guard and is too big for most 3's to guard.
Doron Lamb is another MDAA. 2-guard with a great mid-range game, he'll do nicely as a replacement for Eric Bledsoe.
Eloy Vargas is a JUCO transfer and former 4 (or maybe 5) star recruit who originally played at Florida before going the JUCO route. He's a 6'10" big man who should be able to fill some time in the middle.
The biggest question mark - and source of anxiety for Big Blue Nation - is Enes Kanter. The 6'10" Turkish import is awaiting his fate from the NCAA's clearinghouse. He was MVP of the Nike Hoop Summit game last spring, breaking Dirk Nowitski's scoring record. If he's eligible, he'll favorably replace DeMarcus Cousins. Fun fact about Enes - he's a HUGE, HUGE Undertaker fan. As in posing for pictures wearing the hat, with a tombstone, wears 'Taker t-shirts around campus, went to RAW at Rupp Arena a couple of months ago...
IF Kanter is cleared by the NCAA, the 'Cats will compete for the Final 4 despite their youth.
The biggest knock on the 'Cats is experience (as it always will be with Cal at the helm) and depth. 10 scholarship players aren't many, and only 2 played significant minutes last year - Darius Miller and De'Andre Liggins. Jon Hood and Josh Harrellson will have to step up and freshman Stacey Poole, Jr. will need to contribute when he's called upon as well.
Cal already has commits from 3 top 10 (or 20 depending on the service) players for the 2011 class, so while most fans expect Knight, Jones, and Kanter to leave after this year (unless there's an NBA lockout), the contingency plan is already in place with Michael Gilchrist, Anthony Davis, and Marquis Teague set to take their places.
Youth will be served in Lexington. With that said - what is the future like for your favorite team?
Edit because spelling is hard.
(edited by Rudoublesedoublel on 14.10.10 1355) "I'm on my time with everyone." - Kurt Cobain
I'm personally waiting to see if he can do a repeat performance. If the Clippers get this far, but lose Sam Cassell (THE single reason for the Clippers' turnaround) in the offseason, all these good feelings could be for naught.