Tuesday’s migration of Kentucky players to the NBA probably enhances Indiana’s chance of winning the 2013 NCAA basketball title more than other teams, but some ACC schools could wind up being fringe benefactors.
Wildcat freshmen Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague, and sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb declared.
Including departing seniors Darius Miller and Eloy Vargas, John Calipari faces such a monumental restocking task that it’s difficult to imagine a successful defense of the team’s 2012 championship win over Kansas.
Former N.C. State player Ryan Harrow likely will inherit Teague’s role as Wildcat floor leader and 6-foot-9 rising sophomore Kyle Wiltjer should blossom quickly. But incoming freshmen Nerlens Noel (6-10), Alex Poythress (6-8), Archie Goodwin (6-4) and Willie Cauley (6-11) will have to carry much of the load.
The rookies also will have deal with constant comparisons to Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist and Teague. That inevitability, alone, could complicate Calipari’s job.
While the steady talent exodus at Kentucky and other top schools obviously dilutes the college game, it also spikes the competition. And for Duke and UNC, neither of which has reached the Final Four during the past two seasons, any sort of brief Kentucky retreat could equate to an opportunity.
With C.J. Leslie returning for a third season, N.C. State actually looks stronger on paper than either Carolina or Duke. But the Wolfpack hasn’t been to a Final Four since the 1983 championship run and could have to make a chancy adjustment to life amid abnormally high expectations.
It’s possible that the ACC will not have a top-five preseason team in the national polls. But other than Indiana, which should retain its top five scorers from a 27-9 team that beat Kentucky in early season, all of the usual national contenders will have to replace at least two or three starters.
Although Duke lost its first NCAA game and will have to replace top scorer Austin Rivers, the Blue Devils did win 27 games (13-3 ACC) and had victories over Kansas, UNC and Michigan State.
To assume Duke is in some sort of wholesale retreat from national significance is to assume Mike Krzyzewski is no longer the winningest coach in major college history.
UNC faces a rebuilding chore similar to Kentucky’s, but the Tar Heels should have decent experience in Dexter Strickland, Reggie Bullock, Leslie McDonald, P.J. Hairston and James Michael McAdoo.
Other than UNC and Duke, the rest of the ACC essentially has been irrelevant on the national stage for years.
But given State’ sudden improvement under Mark Gottfried and taking in account that other recently hired coaches at Maryland, Boston College and Georgia Tech should at least make marginal improvement, the ACC’s middle and lower tiers could do at least a little more damage in meaningful non-league games.
On that front, the early-season ACC-Big Ten Challenge almost certainly will be important next season than usual. Some ACC team _ likely Duke or UNC _ will have visit Indiana. State hosted the Hoosiers last season, so the Wolfpack probably will be able to avoid a rematch.
But including Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin and NIT runnerup Minnesota, the first division of the Big Ten could be stronger despite of heavy personnel losses at Ohio State.