After the Confetti: Top 32 for 2012-13

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Confetti Floor

NEW ORLEANS — Late on Monday night at the Superdome, key figures in Kentucky’s title run had differing destinations on their minds. Sophomore Doron Lamb, who had a team-high 22 points in the win over Kansas, stood on the champions’ stage and yelled, five times, “We’re going to the White House!” When the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, freshman Anthony Davis, took his best friend and roommate, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, into his embrace, Davis told him, “It don’t stop here.” They were thinking about the NBA, as, one suspects, is Lamb, fellow sophomore Terrence Jones and freshman point guard Marquis Teague.

Coach John Calipari is prepared for (and even excited about) that scenario: When UK produced a record five first-rounders in 2010, he had the audacity to call it one of the greatest days in Kentucky history. And so on Monday he was left to acknowledge the reality of the one-and-done, revolving-door monster he has created: that to keep attracting new talent, he must keep proving that UK is their best springboard to the league. “What I’m hoping is that there’s six first-rounders on this team,” he said. “We were the first program to have five, now let’s have six. That’s why I’ve got to go recruiting on Friday.”

(TITLE GAME COLUMN: Kentucky’s Blueprint For The Ages)

What Calipari aims to do, in the next seven days, is create another contender. On April 11, the consensus top two recruits in the Class of 2012 plan to announce their college commitments. One is 6-foot-10 center Nerlens Noel, from Everett, Mass., who will have a Davis-like defensive impact on whatever college team he chooses — and could very well be the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft. He is believed to be favoring Kentucky over Georgetown and Syracuse. The other is 6-6 wing Shabazz Muhammad, a lethal scorer from Las Vegas who will likely go No. 1 if Noel doesn’t. UCLA is thought to have a slight lead in that race ahead of Kentucky and Duke, but it’s unwise to count Calipari out of a high-profile recruitment — especially after he just won his first national championship. (The class’ second-best power forward recruit, Canadian Anthony Bennett, is also considering Kentucky, although he has yet to set an announcement date.)

Because Calipari is still recruiting, those of us writing early 2012-13 rankings must have a mastery of the art of asterisking. Kentucky will be decimated by draft defections, but Calipari could still have the No. 1 team in October’s preseason poll, with an entirely new starting lineup. He says he hates the one-and-done rule, but he exploits it like no other. Until the Wildcats’ roster is set, this is what my top 32 looks like:

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  • Published On Apr. 04, 2012 by lukewinn
  • Kentucky’s (Big) Blueprint For The Ages

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    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (center) was the heart of Kentucky's national title team. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

    NEW ORLEANS — This is the condensed-timeline era of college basketball. Arrive in June, leave in April: As a one-and-done, you must maximize every minute if you want to have a legacy. You best savor your last days as a kid before the business abruptly forces you to grow up. And so on the morning of the 2012 national championship game, Kentucky freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist rose uncharacteristically early, at 5:30 a.m. in the hotel room he shared with fellow freshman Anthony Davis, his best friend and the National Player of the Year.

    Gilchrist’s first thought? “It’s going to be a great day.” His was the kind of optimism that needed to be shared, and so he soon roused Davis by blasting Jay-Z on his speakers and screaming, “WE’RE FINALLY HERE!” Davis demanded quiet, to no avail. This was a precocious team that took the nation by storm, grabbed a No. 1 ranking and won 37 out of its first 39 games; its stars’ last morning as teammates was going to be loud.

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  • Published On Apr. 03, 2012 by lukewinn
  • Final Four Scene: Jay-Z And Everyone Else

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    Jay-Z at the Final Four

    NEW ORLEANS — My collection of images — still and moving — from in and around Superdome during Final Four weekend …

    On Saturday night prior to the tipoff of Kentucky-Louisville, Jay-Z appeared in the tunnel near Kentucky’s locker room, to watch them make their grand entrance (and give a hug to Kenny Smith):

    Jay-Z at the Final Four

    Jay-Z at the Final Four

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    Hova, who’s not allowed to go inside the Wildcats’ locker room or openly associate with them, since he’s a part-owner of the Nets — he was fined for taking photos with UK players in Newark last year — could only wear a blue-lettered “BALL SO HARD” shirt and sit in the UK section. We were all left to deduce which team he was rooting for.

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  • Published On Apr. 02, 2012 by lukewinn