Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 6/25/12

NEW ORLEANS - MARCH 20: Coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats talks to his team during the second round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the New Orleans Arena on March 20, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Dave Martin/Getty Images)
Back in April, fresh off his first national championship victory, John Calipari was understandably upbeat. Then his entire starting five and top bench player declared their plans to head to the NBA. And still, Coach Cal looked like a happiest man in the room. "Hey, I've had to replace three teams here (at Kentucky)," Calipari said. "This is the fourth new team I've had to coach. So, I know you're going to be surprised, but we're going to be really young (this year). I'll probably end up starting three freshmen again for the third straight year." You'd think having all that youth would get old, especially at a place like Kentucky where you are expected to win early and very often. You spend all that time and effort recruiting the best high school standouts, and a year later, they buy suits, hire agents, and wish you and yours the best in all your future endeavors. You'd think that a man who will turn 54 in the middle of his next basketball season would grow weary of being a one-year minor-league manager for the NBA. But, even though Cal isn't a fan of the one-and-done rule, he loves the process. "I wish that it was the 70s and 80s where I had guys for four years," he said. "That would be kind of scary. "But for me to start all over every year, I'm going to be honest, it's exciting. The job that I have every year is not to say, 'Here's how we're going to play. This is called Cal ball.' That's not what we do. If you play here, you're going to defend; we're going to play fast; you're going to be unselfish, and you have to be mentally and physically tough. But how we play the dribble-drive, that's different every year. We have to figure it out, and with some teams, that has taken us months." It shouldn't take him as long this time. Cal has already been working with two 6'10" signees Willie Cauley-Stein and Nerlens Noel as well as 6'7" forward Alex Poythress. "I have no idea, yet, with this team how we'll play and how we'll get into dribble-drive," Cal said. "But I know that we can go big. We can play two huge guys on the floor at the same time if we want to." So far he is very happy. "I really like my team," he said. But he will need big performances as well as big men if Kentucky hopes to return to the top of the standings, not just nationally but in the SEC. Florida will put another good team on the court, as will Vanderbilt. The wildcards for next season are Missouri and Texas A&M, schools that officially enter the conference on Sunday. While it will probably take some time for their football programs to adjust, in basketball, the newest conference members, especially Mizzou, could upset the proverbial SEC applecart. Not only could the Wildcats find themselves as underdogs in the SEC, they now have a divisional opponent with an equally strong basketball culture and following. "It's going to have a huge impact," Cal said of Mizzou's entrance into the conference. "All of a sudden the strength of our league schedule goes up. It affects how we schedule non-conference. You want to put your team in jeopardy, just over-schedule or have an injury. At the end of the day, it changes how we think." It might also change how people think about Kentucky. Cal knows that. And he's preparing for it. "Last year's league was really strong and prepared us to win a national title," he said. "You take our league, as good as it was, and add Texas A&M and Missouri: now we move up a notch. "I think half of our league is going to be in the NCAA tournament," Cal continued. "Some years, maybe more. And I think it's going to be that way from here on in."
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