It seems as if John Calipari will indeed leave Memphis for Kentucky – so reports the Louisville Courier-Journal. What's this mean? Why, it means Kentucky is once again a team to be reckoned with. At least, that's what conventional wisdom holds.
Keep in mind, however, that the 2008-09 Wildcats didn't even make the NCAA tournament, the first time that's happened since 1991. Many UK fans would lay the blame for that at the feet of the fired Billy Gillispie, but I don't think he alone is at fault. From my point of view, Kentucky played scared. Besides Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson, the Wildcats at times played tentatively, afraid to take wide-open shots – they passed so much, even Norman Dale would have been screaming, "Shoot already!"
What's this mean for the rest of the SEC? Well, what's good for Kentucky is generally good for the league. We all saw how weak it was this year, and the struggles of traditional powers like Kentucky and Florida only exacerbated that perception. So having the Wildcats relevant will boost the SEC's profile.
On the other hand, a Kentucky resurgence would make life tougher for teams in the Eastern Division, yes, but for everyone. Like, say, Mississippi State. The Bulldogs beat UK at Rupp Arena, which won't happen most years. The Bulldogs should be a favorite to win the West next season, and the future beyond that looks bright, too, but any hopes of becoming a dominant force in the SEC must be tempered with Calipari in Lexington.
The mistake that's often made in such situations, though, is overstating the potential impact of a single individual. Calipari is a mighty important and talented individual, mind you, and he'll have some great tools at his disposal. But here's the X-factor: Calipari's never coached in the SEC. Conference-USA, formerly pretty tough, is now a cupcake league. At UMass, he was in the Atlantic 10.
So for all the hype surrounding this hire, I choose to retain my realist sensibilities and watch it play out. And it ought to be quite entertaining.