Editor's note: March Madness is too much for any one person to handle, so I'm adding help. The guys behind Ballin' Is a Habit, Rob Dauster and Troy Machir, will be contributing throughout March and into the Final Four, both with content from their Web site and original articles for us. This post originally appeared at BIAH.
By Rob Dauster
We knew that John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Patrick Patterson were going to be leaving school after this season. Wall and Cousins are the reason the types of players for whom the one-and-done rule was created. Patterson will graduate at the end of this semester. What does he have left to come back for?
Eric Bledsoe has been considered near a lock to enter the draft for some time now -- he said it's "a good possibility" while Kentucky was in Syracuse for the tournament. Bledsoe is likely going to be projected as a lottery pick as well, meaning that it makes sense for him to leave.
Then we have Daniel Orton. Over the last week or so, it has become clear that Orton intends to enter the draft. Orton, in a refreshingly candid and honest moment, said "You know, if I'm a lottery pick, it's something I have to think about. ... More than anything, it's money. In this world, there's only one color that matters, and that's green. If that's an option, then that's real important. I've got to (explore) that option." His father has said he is going pro, and Kentucky Sports Radio believes he may even be leaving Lexington this weekend to move to L.A. to train.
But there's more. During the McDonald's All-American game, Draft Express tweeted "DeMarcus Cousins here in Columbus. Apparently saying Darnell Dodson is declaring for draft & that Cal told him only 4 UK players returning." KSR didn't exactly confirm this, but they did say "I would be surprised to see Darnell Dodson on the team next season. ... I do not believe the actual reason is due to a decision to declare for the NBA Draft, regardless of what is said. I think it is more likely an internal team issue and if Dodson is not on the team next season (and at this point it is still an "if"), that is the reason why."
Factor in the three seniors -- Perry Stevenson, Mark Krebs, and Ramon Harris -- and UK will be losing nine players next season, including essentially the entire group that some considered the best recruiting class of all time.
So where does that leave Kentucky?
With just four players left on the roster, John Calipari will have his work cut out for him just to get 13 scholarships filled. Those four are Jon Hood (who was considering transferring himself earlier in the season), Darius Miller, DeAndre Liggins, and Josh Harrellson. Calipari has also already gotten commitments from Stacey Poole and Enes Kanter (a five-star recruit who may very well be facing a suspension next season for playing with professionals in his native Turkey), which gives him six players.
All hope is not loss for Kentucky. They do have John Calipari and they are still in the mix for kids like Brandon Knight, Josh Selby, Terrence Ross, CJ Leslie, and Luke Cothron.
But it raises the question - is it really worth it? Do you really want to bring in five kids that are going to stay for just one season before going pro? Even at Memphis, when Calipari had quite a bit of roster turnover, he was still bringing back a lot of key pieces each season.
I'm not one of those people who is going to rail against early entry to the NBA Draft. I don't necessarily like the one-and-done rule, but it isn't because I don't think these kids should be allowed to go pro. In fact, I think that the four freshmen and Patterson should go to the NBA. If you are going to be a top 15-20 pick, and you want the guaranteed money, leave. You can always go back and get an education. Why cut another year out of your earning potential when you can start making a life-changing amount of money right now?
I'm sure many are going to end up question Calipari for bringing in this many one-and-dones. And while I agree that it is not the best way to build a program, think about this -- who else is he supposed to bring in? Cal is known as one of the great recruiters in the country. If he is going to be going after the best players in the country, then he -- and the fans -- needs to realize that he is going after guys that don't have a college basketball national title as a goal.
He's bringing in guys that want to make the league. And if one moderately successful season in college is enough to get them a guaranteed contract, who are we to complain?
Calipari's doing his job. He's bringing the best players he can into the Kentucky program, and he's doing the best job he can to get them prepared for the career they want to pursue.
Now think about this. Cal now has a proven track record of success in getting his players drafted, particularly the one-and-dones.
Doesn't that make him more appealing as a coach if you are a recruit that does, in fact, want to be a one-and-done player?
Almost a year ago to the day, Calipari was hired at Kentucky. He rebuilt the entire roster for last season.
Who's to say he can't do it again?
You can find more of Rob's writing at Ballin' is a Habit and follow him on Twitter @ballinishabit.