Last Season’s Record: 27-9 (Lost to Indiana in 2nd round of NCAA Tournament)
Head Coach: John Calipari (Entering 8th season as head coach of Kentucky)
MARCUS LEE: Transferred
Key Newcomers: inthegymrange.com #1 ranked recruiting class in the country
(#’s next to players name indicates national ranking)
#5: De’AaRON FOX PG
#6: MALIK MONK SG
#7: BAM ADEBAYO PF
#17: WENYEN GABRIEL PF
#26: SACHA KILLEYA-JONES PF
NR: TAI WYNYARD C
Key Returning players:
ISAIAH BRISCOE (Guard)
ISAAC HUMPHRIES (Forward)
DEREK WILLIS (Forward)
DOMINIQUE HAWKINS (Guard)
Last year was a bumpy one for Kentucky. Outside of Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray, there were a number of Wildcats who didn’t play up to their capability. A 2nd round loss to Indiana in the NCAA tournament still stings. Bringing in another number 1 rated recruiting class will always help. How quickly the freshmen gel together will be a huge key to the success of this years version of the Kentucky Wildcats
As usual, John Calipari and Kentucky don’t rebuild. They just reload. This year is no different. While the loss of star guards Ulis and Murray will sting, the Wildcats will replenish the backcourt with 2 high school All-American’s. Malik Monk and De”Aaron Fox will probably be in the starting lineup along with sophomore G Isaiah Briscoe. Monk and Fox are elite athletes and scorers. It is imperative that Briscoe shoots the ball better this year. Veteran PG/SG Dominique Hawkins rounds out the impressive talent that Calipari has in the backcourt.
The transfer of F Marcus Lee will hurt the depth of the frontcourt, however freshmen Adebayo, Gabriel, and Killeya-Jones will help make that loss easier to deal with. These 3 players were ranked among the top 26 players in the class of 2016. A player to keep an eye on is Derek Willis. The senior PF finally broke through on his promise last season (7.7pts, 4reb) and will provide veteran leadership for an extremely young frontcourt. He will need to continue on improving his game as he is the lone upperclassmen who will be getting valuable minutes in the frontcourt. He needs to lead the young freshmen in the right direction.
Ulis and Murray were both unbelievable last season. Can Monk and Fox live up to their lofty rankings and come close to equaling the production of those 2 stars? Are the young forwards going play well on a consistent basis? Who will be the go to guy at the end of a close game? Last year everybody knew either Ulis or Murray would be taking the tough, end of game shots. Who will be that player that stands out and becomes that guy? These are all questions that will need to be answered.
FINAL FOUR IF
This will be one of the younger teams Calipari has had. Ulis was one of the best floor leaders in the history of Kentucky basketball. Who will be that player that steps up and leads this ultra-talented but young team? This is a question that must be answered fairly early into the 2016-17 season.
The Wildcats are undoubtedly one of the most talented teams in the country. Calipari is a master at getting such talented players with NBA aspirations to play together. A bunch of these freshmen will be heading off to the NBA this season. Will that weigh on their minds?
This Kentucky team is going to lose games. What matters is how well they are playing come SEC and NCAA tournament time. With all the talent on this roster, we expect them to be playing their best basketball towards the end of the year. If this happens, John Calipari and this group of Wildcats have an excellent chance of reaching another Final 4.