Have the Recruiting Strategies of the Kentucky Wildcats and the Duke Blue Devils Backfired this Season?

Published 12/09/2020, 3:02 AM EST
Dec 6, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Brandon Boston Jr. (3) grabs a rebound against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the first half at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports


The Kentucky Wildcats and the Duke Blue Devils have had uncharacteristically rocky starts to this season. Both teams are considered to be amongst the greatest college teams in NCAA basketball history. They have championships, superstar alumni, and are easily the colleges children coming out of high school covet a scholarship from.

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Like every year, both the teams got to load up with the cream of the 2019 recruiting class. While Duke snagged four five-star recruits and two four-star recruits, Kentucky was similarly aggressive. They got two five-star recruits and four four-star recruits. However, the results are yet to come.

Duke is 2-2 this season, while Kentucky is having the worst start to a season in a long time with a 1-3 record. Kentucky has already been booted from the Top 25, and Duke can expect their name gone if this week turns out bad. But why is this?

Kentucky Wildcats and Duke Blue Devils struck hard because of COVID

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While every team is struggling from COVID, these freshmen lineups are struggling more than the others. They don’t have the years of chemistry with their teammates. The best teams in the country like Gonzaga, Baylor, and Iowa included recruits within an already established core. Kentucky and Duke are always the schools that get the best talent, but the chemistry is what stops them.

Nov 29, 2020; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari talks with an official during the first half against the Richmond Spiders at Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Constantly changing lineups will not result in regular success like what the Villanova Wildcats see nowadays. They don’t have one-and-done players that use the NCAA system to feed their NBA career. Duke and Kentucky are known to be programs with coaches that can make you NBA ready. While they have won titles with this strategy, this year it cannot work.

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Losing a lot of pre-season to build chemistry, playing without an energetic crowd, and learning a new system on the fly is overwhelming for these players. That is why Kentucky is struggling more than Duke right now. They have more recruits to integrate into the fabric of their team. Hopefully, they manage this soon because it isn’t looking too good for either historic program.

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Ishaan Bhattacharya

1510 articles

Ishaan Bhattacharya is an NBA, NCAA Basketball, and Combat Sports writer at EssentiallySports. Currently, Ishaan is pursuing a Post Graduate Degree in Journalism from Xavier's Institute of Communication. Previously, Ishaan has written for The Indian Express, The Quint, Sportskeeda, and WrestleClub.

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