By Jon Rothstein
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It is more than conceivable that John Calipari could follow up his first ever National Championship with his greatest recruiting coup ever.
Should Kentucky beat Louisville on Saturday at the Final Four and then triumph over the winner of Kansas/Ohio State on Monday, Calipari would have given folks in the Commonwealth everything they’ve been craving since his arrival and then could be in position to outdo himself within a few weeks.
Multiple sources say there is more than a legitimate chance of Kentucky landing the top two prospects in the Class of 2012 in 6-foot-10 shot blocker Nerlens Noel and lefty wing Shabazz Muhammad.
Noel would immediately fill the role for the Wildcats vacated once Anthony Davis leaves for the NBA as expected. The Massachusetts native is also considering Syracuse and Georgetown but those close to the situation believe the burgeoning big man will ultimately wind up in Lexington.
Muhammad meanwhile, is a more interesting situation. A terrific scorer at 6-foot-6, Muhammad has the ability to be the best player in the country next season and has been linked to several different potential destinations during his recruiting process.
While he’s recently officially visited Duke, Muhammad has long been rumored to be part of a dream recruiting class at UCLA along with St. Anthony point forward Kyle Anderson, who committed to the Bruins last fall. With Muhammad and Anderson, UCLA would immediately be a favorite in the PAC-12 and instantly a lock for the Preseason Top 25.
The dark horse in the Muhammad sweepstakes is hometown UNLV. The Runnin Rebels will be much improved in 2012-13 thanks to two terrific transfers in guard Bryce Jones (USC) and nimble big man Khem Birch (Pitt). Mater Dei combo guard Katin Reinhardt also joins Dave Rice’s crew and is expected to compete for major minutes as a freshman.
Rice’s brother Grant is Muhammad’s high school coach at Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas.
Still, several sources still insist that Muhammad has wanted to play for Calipari all along and has always planned to be in college for just one season. With Kentucky’s recent success, it seems more than possible that both he and Noel could wind up playing their home games at Rupp Arena next season, where every night feels like it’s the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
Here’s what Kentucky’s potential starting lineup would look like should Noel and Muhammad both wind up at Kentucky.
KENTUCKY POTENTIAL STARTING LINEUP FOR 2012-13
PG Ryan Harrow (transfer from NC State)
SG Archie Goodwin (Top 15 National Recruit)
SF Shabzz Muhammad
PF Kyle Wiltjer
C Nerlens Noel
Is it possible that Kentucky could be even more of a powerhouse next season? Sound off in the comments below…