The word is out that John Calipari is bringing in arguably his best class of freshman yet for the 2013-2014 season – in fact, it’s arguably the best freshman class since Michigan’s famed “fab five.” However, last season showed that the so-called Freshman Model can be as likely to fail as it is to succeed (as it did with the 2012 national championship). So what can we expect out of this year’s squad?
Simply put, this team is far too loaded not to compete for a national championship. The Harrison twins will drastically improve the backcourt, Julius Randle could be in play for national player of the year as a freshman, and Dakari Johnson – something of an afterthought in this class – could be one of the best centers in the country. UK will almost certainly start the season as the favorite to win it all. The real question is whether they have a shot at 40-0. So far, there seem to be no reliable odds out there on this unlikely, but seemingly possible achievement, but we’ll be keeping our eye on Betfair news and similar sports book sites, as it will be interesting to see the odds trickle in. For now, let’s look at teams that could ruin the perfect record, and teams that could challenge the Wildcats for the championship.
November 12th at Chicago’s United Center marks the first real challenge, as UK will take on Michigan State in the Champions Classic. MSU is always a threat, and should be a top-5 team this season, so for the young Wildcats this will be a major hurdle. On December 14th, the Wildcats travel to Chapel Hill to play North Carolina, and while the Tar Heels certainly look vulnerable, this is a blue blood matchup in which anything could happen. If embattled lunatic star PJ Hairston isn’t suspended for the Heels, the game gets far more interesting. Getting into conference play, the only team that has any logical shot at beating UK is Florida, which still has Patric Young patrolling the paint, and brought in exceptional point guard Kasey Hill to run the show. Of co
urse, anything can happen, and a young team can have a meaningless stumble – but in the regular season, it looks like MSU, UNC, and Florida represent the only real threats.
Nationally speaking, things get a bit more complicated. Hated rivals Louisville and Duke both look exceptionally strong, and should both be in the national title hunt. As mentioned, MSU will be in the mix, and with Andrew Wiggins on board in Lawrence, Kansas can’t be counted out. Syracuse and Arizona should also contend, each with a few highly rated freshmen in the fold to add to talented rosters. UK will be the national title favorite, but these teams will be right there with them.