Kentucky assistant director of media relations John Hayden confirmed to CBSSports.com on Wednesday that the school is one step closer to officially assembling a men's basketball team that will be favored to win the 2014 national championship.
"All of our returning players and signees are enrolled and registered for the fall semester," Hayden said via text message. And you're wrong if you don't think this is big news.
Here are two reasons why this is big news:
- Pretty much everything related to UK hoops is big news.
- Kentucky's massive and intense fan base can now relax a little, if possible.
We've all known for a good while that this version of the Wildcats would be a special group, but the past few months have doubled as anxious months because half of the record six McDonald's All-Americans that John Calipari signed to national letters of intent didn't enroll in summer school. So the obvious question was ... Why? Why weren't Andrew and Aaron Harrison taking classes? And what about James Young?
UK officials consistently declined to discuss their statuses.
School policy and all that.
But none of it matters now.
The Harrison twins, Young and fellow McDonald's All-Americans Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee are all officially enrolled and on campus in Lexington. Assuming each is eventually cleared by the NCAA to compete as a freshman -- and there's no real reason to assume they won't collectively be cleared by the NCAA to compete as freshmen -- they'll combine with sophomores Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein to create what will clearly be the nation's top roster and should be college basketball's best team.
I realize that last part is debatable -- especially after what happened last season.
But it should be noted that the CBSSports.com Candid Coaches series concluded last week with a question about the Wildcats -- specifically a question about whether they'd be closer to the team that won the 2012 national title or the team that missed the 2013 NCAA tournament -- and 87 percent of the men surveyed predicted this would be more like the championship team than the NIT team. One coach called what Calipari has assembled an "embarrassment of riches" before adding "they could lose two of their top eight guys and still be a top-five team." Another coach noted that Kentucky has "NBA guys at every position, and two at some positions. And they won't be all young this season. They're just going to overwhelm most everybody they play."
In other words, if you're predicting this team to flop like last season's team then you're not just arguing with me; you're also arguing with the overwhelming majority of college basketball coaches, the guys who presumably know and understand the sport better than anybody else. So consider this your reminder of that on a notable day for the Kentucky basketball program. All of the returning players and signees are finally on campus and in classes. They'll be on television and in games before you know it.