LEXINGTON, Ky. — John Calipari is at again: Kentucky has the top-ranked recruiting class ever and the coach is insisting his young Wildcats have a long way to go.
If this talented eight-man freshman class that includes six McDonald's All-Americans jells according to plan, the journey could include a Southeastern Conference championship.
As it is, the Wildcats will begin No. 1 with monumental expectations, including talk of a ninth national championship and possibly an undefeated season.
Calipari isn't going that far, but he does believe Kentucky has "a chance to be one of the best teams in the country."
At the very least it should surpass the accomplishments of last year's touted squad that went 21-12 and lost an opening-round NIT game at Robert Morris.
Leading the newcomers are McDonald's selections Julius Randle, James Young, Dakari Johnson, identical twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison, and Marcus Lee. The Wildcats have also added in-state standouts Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins.
Add in the frontcourt returns of sophomores Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein and even Calipari concedes there's potential to do something special.
"We'll be the most inexperienced team in the country, but we're really talented," Calipari said on media day. "We've got great size and speed and skill. Will we be a great defensive team and rebounding team, and will we share the ball?
"If we do that, we have a chance to be one of the best teams in the country."
For all the hype surrounding the new guys, having Poythress and Cauley-Stein back as sophomores might be the key to any championship aspirations for Kentucky.
Both players say there was room for improvement in their games, so rather than follow Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin into the NBA draft last summer, they returned for more seasoning and a national championship run.
"It was definitely the best decision for me, given how the year ended," said Cauley-Stein, who averaged 8.3 points and 6.2 rebounds last season. "There were a lot of things I needed to work on such as rebounding, moving my feet, going to the basket."
Poythress said he had to mature and become more assertive. Facing top-flight teammates in practice has helped on both counts. He and Cauley-Stein also are assuming leadership roles on a team that will need cohesion.
"For whatever reason we didn't come together last season and maybe it was because we didn't have a leader," Poythress said. "So, me and Willie decided to step up and be leaders. But everybody needs to step this year."