UK listed as an underachiever by ESPN writer


Guard Tyler Ulis and head coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats talk during a free throw during the game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Rupp Arena on Saturday, December 13, 2014 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky defeated North Carolina 84-70. Photo by Michael Reaves | Staff 

Kevin Erpenbeck

In the last four years, the Kentucky Wildcats have reached the NCAA Tournament three times, made it to the Final Four twice, played in the national championship game once. 

And yet somehow, an esteemed sports writer believes the Cats have underachieved. Curious.

Jeff Borzello, a college basketball writer for ESPN, released an exclusive, subscription-only column today detailing why he believes UK, along with four other universities, have underachieved in basketball when it comes to the players they have recruited during the four-year time window. Borzello placed UK at the top of his list of underachievers, right above LSU, UNLV, N.C. State and UCLA. Of the five teams he listed, only UK has reached the Final Four.

Borzello wrote that the five underachieving teams were, “all relative to recruiting class rankings.” In the last four years, John Calipari has complied the second-best recruiting class three times and the overall best once (recruiting class listings is based on ESPN’s rankings). Kentucky has also secured nine top-10 players in that time frame, which is more than LSU, UNLV and N.C. State had combined.

The teams’ final results of each season also played a role in determining whether or not they underachieved. UNLV, which had one top-10 player in the last four years (Anthony Bennett, class of 2012) has not made the NCAA Tournament since 2013. UCLA had two top-5 players as part of its 2012 recruiting class (Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson), but didn’t make it out of the Round of 64 the following year and has only made two Sweet 16 appearances since. LSU had the No. 1 recruited player of 2015 in Ben Simmons, but didn’t qualify for the NCAA Tournament last season and has only made one trip to the Big Dance in the last four years. 

The reaction to Borzello’s column in the Big Blue Nation was eye-brow raising at the least and elicited many enraged responses. Kyle Tucker of the Courier-Journal wrote a response article to the column and tweeted out that while he “loves Jeff,” Borzello’s take was “just nuts.”

In Tucker’s article, he noted how Duke had similar results to Kentucky in the same time frame and was not placed on the list. He also listed schools like Kansas, Arizona and North Carolina that had arguably worse results than UK while having top-tier recruiting classes. To read Tucker’s full article, click here.

Kentucky Sports Radio’s Drew Franklin also wrote a piece in response to Brozello’s column, calling it an “incredibly dumb hot take” in the title while listing what Borzello wrote about UK in the column. Some readers responded to Franklin’s piece in the form of their own frustration towards Borzello in the comment section. Click here to read the piece and comments below.

Whether Borzello was looking for a reaction from the listed schools’ fan bases or if he just intended to give readers perspective on what should be considered “underachieving,” the ESPN writer certainly got the attention one would get after posting a column of that magnitude.

If you have an account subscription to ESPN Insider, you can read Borzello’s full column here. Borzello stated he would release a list of schools that “overachieved” given their recruiting classes in another article next week.