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Will UK Win It All Next Season? It’s Not Crazy Talk

John Clay of The Lexington Herald-Leader is studying the history books.  “What’s past is prologue,” seems to be his viewpoint for the day.

Bear with us, here.

As Clay points out, Kentucky lost to Arizona in the 1997 NCAA Tournament finals… in a domed stadium… partially because of bad free-throw shooting. 

On Saturday, they lost to UConn in the national semifinals… in a domed stadium… partially because of bad free-throw shooting.

See the connection?  And guess what happened in 1998, the year after UK lost that heartbreaker to Lute Olson’s Wildcats.  Yep, UK came back in ’98 and won the whole darn tourney.

So Cat fans can go ahead and book their trips to next year’s Final Four in New Orleans, right?  Not so fast, writes Clay:

Before the Big Blue Nation banks on another repeat of history, it’s a much different game these days.  Back then, (Nazr) Mohammed returned in ’98 for his junior year, helping the Cats to their seventh crown.  The same can’t be expected of (Terrence) Jones, whose uneven performances are more in tune with that of a young collegian, but whose skill set and upside share a certain kinship with most high NBA draft picks.

Same goes for Brandon Knight, the rookie point guard whose shooting touch betrayed the Floridian for much of the NCAA Tournament.  Knight’s bad-game/good-game yin and yang reared its ugly head again Saturday when the star guard missed 17 of his 23 shots.  But given the projected shallow draft pool for this summer, Knight could find it advantageous to jump now, instead of later.

Obviously, there might be a smaller number of UK returnees in 2012 than there were in 1998.  For that reason, the lessons of the previous year might not mean so much to what might be a new set of Wildcats next season.

But the fact that UK was back in the Final Four this past weekend — and that the talk in Lexington already centers upon returning next season — shows that John Calipari has already been worth his $3.9 million salary.

Love them or hate them, Kentucky is back on the national basketball scene.  While these kinds of year-out discussions of Final Four possibilities might be silly elsewhere, they can be conducted legitimately once more in Lexington.  Just like at Duke, North Carolina and Kansas.

UK is back.  Which means Calipari’s first mission has already been completed.

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