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College basketball stock watch: The John Calipari-Coach K recruiting war Al Bello/Getty Images

While we don’t consistently get battles between the Duke Blue Devils and Kentucky Wildcats on the hardwood, there’s one brewing on the recruiting trail between Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari.

Calipari, the original hero of exploiting the one-and-done rule, is still landing top-tier recruits. However, the change over the course of the last few seasons is that Coach K has begun to out-Calipari the actual John Calipari — at least, that’s what the lame-stream media will tell you!

#FakeNews… or something. Likely something, but forget about the semantics.

This supposed rise of Coach K as the king of the recruiting trail, as well as the supposed downfall of Calipari, is the focus on this edition of Stock Watch.

Before the hoopla of this entire discussion, do remember that this isn’t about something being or bad. It is about value.

Hold Pattern On Coach K’s Stock

The Dilly

There’s really no mistake about it. Over the course of the last three recruiting classes, Coach K has been killing it on the grassroots market. Basically, he’s the Rick Grimes to a high school recruit’s Walking Dead walkers.

Hooray, semi-relevant pop culture references! Anyway…

Image result for walking dead walker gif
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Duke has landed nine top-10 recruits and six top-5 prospects in the last three classes. The most crazy of which has been the 2018 class, which features Coach K luring the nation’s top-three prospects all to Durham.

This might not seem incredibly new, as Duke is Duke and Duke has been good for decades, but it is an uptick with the caliber of prospect Krzyzewski is bringing to campus. From 2009-13, Duke signed “only” three top-10 players total.

To be Camp Crystal Lake clear: Putting the word “just” in quotations is done for a reason. Landing that many top-10 players in the period of time is still incredible. We can downplay it now, as the Blue Devils literally just landed the top three kids in the 2018 class, but 99 percent of the programs in the country would murder their figurative and collective mothers to have such “little” success on the recruiting trail.

Why Aren’t We Buying Then?

Coach K might be an ageless vampire, or someone who made a pact with the devil to age suspiciously well, but he is 70. That is the number seven directly followed by the digit zero.

I have a father-in-law who is in his sixties, is still active and doing well, and even has a coffee mug I got him that says “still sexy in my 60s.” I bring that up for two reasons.

  1. To highlight my GOAT-level of son-in-law behavior.
  2. People younger folk deem old can still have an impact.

The second point is important — although the first is clearly also of value (to my wife) — but it is worth noting that it isn’t ageism to wonder how consistent a 70-year-old can be at recruiting teenagers. Not only due to the fact Coach K would need to relate to some youngsters, but a day might be looming when he decides it is no longer fun trying to appease an 18-year-old about Duke virtues.

Despite that concern, we’re not buying or selling this stock. We’re just keeping whatever we have at the moment and not betting against anything to really change. Coach K can’t really do any better than his 2018 class, but we shouldn’t be willing to let the idea of him being an immortal escape the realm of possibilities.

Seriously. Our kids might be having the conversation about “if Coach K still has it” in 2058.

He will, for what it is worth. He will most definitely still have it at 110 years of age.

Yet, We’re Buying John Calipari’s Recruiting

The Dilly

What has happened over the last several seasons to Kentucky is nearly the exact opposite of Duke.

In that same time-span in which Coach K (2009-13) only landed those few super-elite players, Calipari convinced 15 (Fif-bleeping-teen!) top-10 and eight top-five players that Lexington is where all the cool kids hang out. That is, objectively, absurd.

However, Calipari  has not signed a top-5 recruit in any of the last three classes. He’s still getting five-star kids en masse, just not the sort that results in the hyperbole that awaits for Duke next season.

In the last three classes, Kentucky has landed just three top-10 players.

Ugh, using the word “just” relative to landing, on average, a top-10 player in each recruiting class…

Why Are We Buying?

Because Kentucky-related stuff results in all the crazy hyperbolic nonsense which enables dim people into thinking John Calipari somehow no longer has the Midas touch on the recruiting trail.

Harshly, it is worth noting: The Wildcats are still doing well even after not landing all the top-five recruits. Big Blue Nation still has the fourth ranked 2018 recruiting class, a trio that includes two five-stars (both just outside the top-10) and a four-star (ranked 33rd).

Is that bad? It doesn’t appear to be bad. In fact, it looks as though John Vincent Calipari remains a force to be reckoned with.

If we dig slightly deeper into this idea that — because Cal no longer lands all the top-5 kids — Kentucky has lost its luster to teenagers, you will notice he is getting wickedly swell and splendid talent.

In 2016, he landed the sixth, ninth, 11th, 15th, and 23rd ranked prospects. In 2017, it was the 10th, 11th, 12th, 15th, 18th, 26th and 31st. And we already touched on the 2018 class.

Point being: If that is Calipari being bad at recruiting, we should all wish we were that awful at our jobs.

Alas, with the narrative being Coach K > Calipari on the recruiting trail, with the latter supposedly losing his abilities, let’s buy this stock before it soars back to its other-worldly and expensive price.

All recruiting data was pulled from the 247Sports Composite Rankings on 1/22.

Joseph has been covering college basketball for nearly a decade. He's also the co-host of the Off The Wall podcast. Marty Jannetty is better than HBK.
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