Had Meeks decided to return to the Wildcats, joining Patrick Patterson and the seemingly endless abundance of talent Calipari has assembled, the general consensus would have likely been that the Cats would plow through the SEC virtually unopposed.
The Meeks decision along with recent news that other talented SEC players like Tyler Smith of Tennessee, 6-9 center Jarvis Varnado of Miss State, forward Michael Washington of Arkansas and guard Devan Downey of South Carolina were returning to their teams have fans believing that the SEC may be more balanced now.
Eamonn Brennan of Yahoo Sports went so far as to say that the decision brought the Cats down from the status of "Buzzsaw" to "Merely Good." Dick Weiss said that Kentucky's expectations would "take a dip" as a result of the decision. Of the early media experts, only Jay Bilas of ESPN dismissed the impact of the decision as a minor one.
"Is it a hit? Yes," Bilas said. "Is it a huge hit? Not really." Bilas also noted that Meeks' final season may have been impacted by learning a new Calipari basketball system. Bilas is correct that often key players have a productivity dip when confronted with a learning a new system.
Put me in the Bilas camp; no one I know could defend a position that Kentucky is better off without Meeks, nor would anyone even want to, but the Wildcats have enough talent to absorb the loss with very little impact.
Meeks carried much of the scoring load for Kentucky last season in large part because the Cats essentially had two offensive options, Patrick Patterson and Meeks. That will not be the case this season. John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Darnell Dodson, DeMarcus Cousins, Jon Hood and Daniel Orton all bring a varying set of offensive skills to the Cats, and Darius Miller was beginning to develop nicely at the end of the 08-09 season as well.
The Wildcats will miss Meeks' leadership and scoring abilities, but if there was ever a year the Cats could ever absorb a loss of a player like Meeks, it will be this one. Other SEC teams can view this as a positive sign, and perhaps they will be proven right. My guess is, however, that the Wildcats still have more than enough depth and talent to separate themselves, win the SEC and make a deep run in the NCAA.