Jay Wright sounds off on the state of college basketball Screen Grab: TruTV

College basketball is in a new era with NIL and the transfer portal. This changing landscape might offer retired coaches, now analysts, a unique perspective on how the game has evolved. Their past strategies may be less effective. Legendary coach Jay Wright, with his two national championships, is a prime example of someone who can explain why specific approaches are outdated.

Kentucky’s recent loss to a lower-seeded team is a stark reminder of the changing dynamics of college basketball. Building a team solely on young talent, even with future pro potential, may not be enough anymore. Experience, as we’re seeing, is playing a significant role in today’s game.

The University of Kentucky’s strategy of building with young talent has been John Calipari’s signature for years. While successful in the past, the one-and-done era might be fading with the rise of NIL. Teams like Tennessee, who leverage the transfer portal to acquire experienced players like the SEC’s leading scorer in Dalton Knecht (a former mid-major standout), are finding success. Kentucky’s recent loss to Oakland wasn’t solely on young players but highlights the need to adapt. The transfer portal, extra COVID year, and overall age difference (think 18-year-olds vs. seasoned 21-23-year-olds) create a significant gap in experience that Kentucky and programs like it need to address.

While Calipari may want to blame his players for their youth, he’ll have to change his thinking, as Wright so eloquently put it.

“The era of taking these young freshmen and trying to play against older players is over,” said Wright. “I think he did a phenomenal job with these guys all year, getting them to be as successful as they were. You can see they’re playing against grown men. The guys on Kentucky will be far better pros than any of these guys on Oakland or any of these guys in the tournament. But they’re not as good college basketball players. At this point in their career, they’re not as disciplined yet as the guys from Oakland.

“And it’s not Cal’s fault. It’s they’re 18 years old, and they’re in this era where everyone’s telling them how great they are. Just show up in college, and you’re going to win. It doesn’t happen that way. And the more that guys stay in college because of the NIL, it’s going to be tougher for young teams like these to be successful.

Wright makes many excellent points. But to say it’s not Calipari’s fault is giving further credence to excuse-making. At the end of the day, it’s Calipari who recruited these 18-year-olds, and it’ll be up to him to adapt.

[Awful Announcing on Twitter/X]

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.