Wednesday, April 23, 2014 · 3:31 p.m.

Kentucky lands Nerlens Noel, wraps up No. 1 recruiting class

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Kentucky head coach John Calipari received a commitment from Nerlens Noel—the No. 1 or No. 2 prospect in the class of 2012, depending on what recruiting analyst you subscribe to—on Wednesday night. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Here’s a funny thought.

Now that Kentucky has wrapped up its fourth consecutive No. 1 recruiting class, what if Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, etc. decided to come back for a shot at a second consecutive national championship?

Nah, not going to happen.

But given the Wildcats’ track record under coach John Calipari, they’re going to be heard from again next March. Davis and Gilchrist will go off to become the first two players taken in the June NBA Draft and Jones will fall somewhere in the lottery. Kentucky, though, will be back.

That much was all but assured on Wednesday night when Nerlens Noel—the No. 1 or No. 2 prospect in the class of 2012, depending on what recruiting analyst you subscribe to—appeared on ESPNU to announce he was signing with Calipari and the Cats.

If you don’t bleed Kentucky blue or follow the crazy world of college hoops recruiting, Noel is painted as the second coming of Anthony Davis. Some analyst say he’s an even better shot blocker than Davis, which boggles the mind given the records Davis shattered in his only college season.

At 6-foot-10 and 210 pounds, Noel is thinner than Davis. He may not be the offensive player Davis turned out to be, but he will anchor Kentucky’s defense, which will once again lock down opponents. He’s a Bill Russell-type shot blocker who uses his long arms and perfect timing to send back shots and keep them in play so teammates can corral them.

Despite Noel's commitment, Kentucky fans didn’t quite get the bountiful recruiting harvest they were hoping for Wednesday. Shabazz Muhammad, who would have been the heir apparent to Kidd-Gilchrist, opted for UCLA.

Even without Muhammad, the Cats cleaned up. Joining Noel in Lexington are three fall signees—6-8 Alex Poythress from Clarksville, Tenn., Archie Goodwin, a scoring machine from Little Rock, Ark., and 7-0 Willie Cauley from Kansas.

Poythress is a combo forward and McDonald’s All-American who can score inside and out. Goodwin can put the ball on the floor and make threes. Cauley is probably the least advanced of the Kentucky recruits, but has loads of potential.

Noel, Poythress and Goodwin are all consensus five-star recruits. ESPN rates Poythress the No. 13 player nationally and the No. 3 small forward, Goodwin the No. 15 player in his class and the No. 4 shooting guard, and Cauley the No. 40 player and the No. 11 center.

Kentucky is still in play for Anthony Bennett, the No. 7 player in the class of 2012, and UConn transfer Alex Oriahki, a junior power forward scheduled to visit Lexington. Oriahki recently trimmed Duke from his list but also likes Missouri, which joins the Southeastern Conference in the fall, and North Carolina. But UNC is also courting South Carolina transfers Anthony Gill and Damontre Harris, who both left the program after coach Darrin Horn was fired and replaced by Frank Martin.

Other than No. 1 Kentucky, only one other SEC school was ranked among ESPN’s top 25 recruiting classes. Florida landed firmly at No. 25. The Gators signed two four-star guards in the fall—6-4 Michael Frazier of Montverde (Fla.) Academy and 6-1 Braxton Ogbueze of United Faith Christian Academy in Charlotte, N.C.

Florida is still hoping to sign Bennett and recently gained some scholarship room when freshman Walter Pitchford decided to transfer to a school closer to his Michigan home.

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