Kentucky will be good again next season because Kentucky is always good.
Let's make that clear up front.
But with Monday's news thatwe now know for sure that John Calipari will have his most inexperienced roster ever in 2017-18 because eight of the top nine scorers from this season's team that won the SEC regular-season title, SEC tournament title and played in the Elite Eight are officially gone. That's 80.8 points per game out the door. Which means UK is losing more points per game than 324 teams even averaged this past season.
The leading returning scorer?
It's Wenyen Gabriel -- a 6-foot-9 forward who averaged 4.6 points in 17.8 minutes per game. He's the only returning Wildcat who averaged at least seven minutes per game. He scored exactly one point in Kentucky's four NCAA Tournament contests.
Simply put, this is new territory -- even for Calipari.
Yes, he's used to coaching young teams.
But he's never been this young
In other words, this will be the first time Calipari has coached a UK team without a returning player who averaged at least 5.0 points in the previous season. And it'll be just the second time he's coached a team without a returning player who averaged at least 18.0 minutes in the previous season -- the only other time being in 2013, when his Wildcats finished 21-12 and lost to Robert Morris in the NIT.
Meantime,Kentucky teams built similarly to the way next season's Kentucky team will be built have usually struggled in the SEC. But it's all relative. And here's what I mean: Calipari's four teams that have relied on freshmen to score more than 60.0 percent of their points were the 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2017 teams -- and three of those freshmen-heavy teams (2011, 2013, 2014) lost six SEC games, which isn't good. But let the record show that three of those four teams (2011, 2014, 2017) still made the Elite Eight. And two of those four teams (2011, 2014) still advanced to the Final Four.
My point: Even when UK's young teams "struggle" they tend to finish impressively.
So the bottom line is this: Kentucky will be younger and more inexperienced than ever next season. And history suggests that'll lead to a rough stretch here or there where everybody starts to question whether Calipari is maximizing his top-ranked recruiting class. Then, more than likely, the Wildcats will grow into a team that guards well and overwhelms most opponents with talent and athleticism. And that's when they'll start again being discussed as a serious Final Four threat, which is what they've been in seven of the past eight years under Calipari almost regardless of which players are coming or going.