And once again, with a national audience watching, a Kentucky victory disappointed the masses. It was a recruiting win this time around, but still as impactful as many you’ll find on the court. Nerlens Noel chose UK, where he’ll join four other elite recruits in the quest for a repeat National Title. There’s a good chance they’ll succeed.
Considering the fallout from Lebron James’ one-hour special, one would expect influential recruits and free agents to approach similar events carefully.
On the whole, Noel and Shabazz Muhammad (the top two recruits in the nation) played the evening pretty low-key. It was just unfortunate that Nerlens had to preface his decision with “I’m taking my talents to…” before he swiveled around to reveal the “UK” shaved into the back of his head.
- It was nice to see Muhammad choose UCLA. At least John Calipari didn’t sweep the night clean. Muhammad eloquently described his desire to embrace the challenge of a Bruins program that has undergone some recent turmoil.
- The brief digression with John Thompson, Jim Boeheim and Calipari sporting photoshopped flattops was ESPN at its peak level of annoyingness. Everyone watching was thinking, “Just let the guy announce his decision already!”
- The lined-up hats had a lot of people fooled. Syracuse and Kentucky had very bland caps, while the Georgetown representative was a comparably modern-looking. It appeared to be a subtle give-away that Noel would pick up the Hoyas hat. Little did anyone know, he would leave all the hats on the table.
- When N2 paused after “the University of,” he wasn’t creating very much suspense. But here’s guessing Syracuse and Georgetown fans were hoping for a split second he had things mixed up. Chancellor Nancy Cantor was already applying to change the school’s name to “The University of Syracuse” if it brought Noel to campus.
Even if your heart wanted Nerlens to wear Orange, it’s obvious why he’ll wear blue. Anthony Davis went to Kentucky and lived out a dream scenario. He gobbled up almost every award of significance and led Kentucky to a National Championship. Noel, who is similar in style to Davis but might even have more talent, can step right into Davis’ shoes and have a chance to re-accomplish every feat Davis did. Watching Kentucky cut the nets in New Orleans was easily the best recruiting pitch Noel received.
John Calipari proved his one-and-done system works. And from all accounts, Nerlens wants his tenure in college to be brief. If he wants immediate success, it’s tough to deny that the Wildcats make the most sense.
Where does Syracuse go from here?
The Orange is still in a favorable spot. Even without Noel, Syracuse will prove it’s an unwavering national powerhouse. Dozens of programs have the ability make the occasional deep tourney run. All it takes is a group of upperclassmen that hits its stride at the right time. The truly dominant programs are the ones that do it year after year, regardless of who they’ve lost and how young their core is.
The Orange will lose (arguably) its four most valuable players from this past season. Yet it still appears Boeheim has put his team in position to do some damage in March.
DaJuan Coleman is a tank, and will bring some much-needed rebounding to the SU frontcourt. Rakeem Christmas and Michael Carter-Williams should improve drastically in their sophomore campaigns. Brandon Triche and James Southerland will return as seniors, both having played their best basketball down the stretch. C.J. Fair has been Mr. Consistent since he arrived as a freshman. And Trevor Cooney (coming off a redshirt year) will be the X-Factor as a lights-out shooter with unheralded athleticism.
Nerlens Noel would have made SU the favorite to win it all. But the Orange is still a contender regardless.
Posted: Andrew Kanell