( Yes, I know I've already used this pic, but it speaks volumes)
This recruiting class came in with more hype than any other class than I can remember in recent memory. I mean, fans were talking about a possible 40-0 season and the fact that this team would be leaps and bounds better than the 'Fab Five'. Well, we are close to February and I'm not seeing anything close to that thus far. The fact of the matter is that TOO much has been expected out of this team. Now, before you crucify me, let me explain.
We can only go by what the 'experts' say about these kids in high school and how they rank them coming out. Was this crop of freshman overrated by the ones who do the rankings? To put it simply, NO. The truth is, the 2012 championship team has destroyed our perception of what a freshman actually is and how they play and I'm afraid Cal may have been fooled as well.
Not too many freshman come in and play the way Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist did. The minute those guys slipped the Kentucky jersey over their heads, they played like sophomores and by seasons end, they were playing like juniors and that doesn't happen very often. I hear people say that the reason for the success of the 2012 National Championship team was the fact that they had veteran leadership in Darius Miller. Now, I'm not taking ANYTHING away from what Darius brought to the team (because he brought a lot) or any other contributions he made, but let's get real, that was Davis' and Gilchrist's team and Darius just added an upper-classman flavor to the whole thing.
When teams prepared to play Kentucky during their run to the championship in 2012, they prepared for Davis, Gilchrist, Jones and Lamb. Their scouting report MAY have had very little, if anything to do with Darius Miller (enough can't be said here about how I'm NOT trying to diminish his contribution to the team, just trying to make a point) as he was unpredictable at times during the season. It was the FRESHMAN who carried the load on that team despite what some might have you believe and therein lies the problem we have with this years crop of freshman.
It's not everyday that you get freshman that play the way Davis and Gilchrist did so it's unfair to hold these freshman to the same standards, standards set by us, the FANS. These guys are FRESHMAN, freshman that have been chewed up by the AAU machine where no basic fundamentals are taught. Instead, they're taught that whoever can score the most points by the final buzzer wins the game and win by any means necessary; even if it means NOT playing as a team which has produced the product you see today and not just at Kentucky.
The only prep school that comes close to teaching "the basics" that I'VE personally seen is Huntington Prep and coach Rob Fulford. It's evident in the way Andrew Wiggins began his season at Kansas. He wasn't looking for his shot (something you know he can do if you've seen him in person), instead he would make the extra pass to get his teammates involved. That's just the way coach Fulford teaches his guys and something other high school coaches should pay close attention to. This is the reason Coach Cal is having to coach these guys so hard, the lack of fundamentals.
Sure, it would be nice if these guys would stick around two or three years, but that's up to the NBA and that's another story for another time. Instead we are stuck with guys who stick around for one year with fans and coaches hoping that they can grasp what the coach is trying to teach them in a very short amount of time. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but Cal has proven that it CAN be done, just getting the players to buy in is the trick.
I asked Rex Chapman on Twitter what he thought of this team after the loss in Baton Rouge and he said...
@rexchapman: The team has some huge hurdles to climb. We're not getting any smaller though. Big squad. still have a shot. Not panic-time.
I agree with Rex, step away from the panic button BBN, it's not time to panic.... YET