Kentucky is a National Title Contender, once again.
This Kentucky Basketball Team is composed a bit differently than last season, this is a team that is strong all around unlike last season’s team that had a strong backcourt and weak frontcourt. Do not mistake this team for the 2014-15 Kentucky Team, but they should be one of John Calipari’s best teams. This is a team that has certainly not forgotten how they were bounced from last season’s NCAA Tournament, in fact, it may motivate John Calipari even more.
John Calipari is in his eighth season at Kentucky and he will bring his Dribble Drive Motion Offense back with De’Aaron Fox leading the way. Kentucky is a primarily man-to-man defensive team and they should be able to play tough defense with their superior talent and athleticism.
The major difference will be at Point Guard and in the paint. This is a bigger, stronger frontcourt than last season and Tyler Ulis is replaced by a bigger, stronger and immediately NBA-ready Point Guard, De’Aaron Fox.
The lost contributions do not matter much with Kentucky as this is one of the few teams that could completely start over from the previous season and not only match the previous season’s contributions, but exceed it. Kentucky is a well-oiled machine. Isaiah Briscoe returns and he is the most important returning presence on this team. Briscoe is a valued dribble-driver and distributor. Briscoe will mature, but he will also play less minutes this season. He will need to be more efficient to justify his minutes.
Derek Willis will be an important three point shooter for the Kentucky Wildcats. He’s the best returning three point shooter and he does his best work when getting his shots off action toward the inside of the perimeter.
Featured Members of the Kentucky Roster
Kentucky’s leading student-athlete from last season is Isaiah Briscoe. Briscoe proved himself to be not ready for the NBA last season. Briscoe was projected as the 21st pick of the 2016 NBA Draft on October 28, 2015 by NBADraft.net. Briscoe can now not be found in any of their available mock drafts. Briscoe’s struggles at the Free Throw Line and from beyond the arc made him unappealing to NBA scouts. Briscoe is going to have to fight for his playing time and show that he has improved or else he may consider a transfer to get the playing time and revive his hopes of playing professionally in the NBA.
Briscoe is at his best attacking the basket off the dribble.
Bam Adebayo is a dynamic Freshman Post and he is a projected first round pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Adebayo is a physical presence for a Freshman, it remains to be seen how good he will be against Division I talent, but he is expected to be a major upgrade over Skal Labissiere and Marcus Lee combined.
Monk is a proficient three point shooter. He is not going to play Point Guard because that is De’Aaron Fox’s role, but he will play Shooting Guard. He will be the heir apparent to Jamal Murray.
Monk is projected to be drafted in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft by NBADraft.net.
Blink and you might miss him on the floor. He’s one of the fastest Point Guards to hit College Basketball in a decade. A projected lottery pick who is drawing comparisons to John Wall.
Fox is a strong finisher at the basket and he has a good mid-range game. His main weakness is his three point shooting, he needs to improve from beyond the arc.
Derek Willis is extremely dangerous from three point range and his biggest contributions are from long range. Willis needs opportunities from long range in rhythm. Aside from this, he is not a major contributor on the floor.
Expected Starting Lineup
PG: De’Aaron Fox
SG: Malik Monk
3G: Isaiah Briscoe
Combo: Derek Willis
PF: Bam Adebayo
What to Expect From Kentucky
Kentucky’s bench is rather deep. Each scholarship level student-athlete can contribute and likely start for most major conference programs. Kentucky should win the SEC and even win the SEC Tournament barring injuries, dissension or deteriorating chemistry. From that point, it is just a matter of whether Kentucky can get through their draw in the NCAA Tournament. It is foreseeable that Kentucky reaches the Final Four in Phoenix and even wins their ninth NCAA Championship. This is a team that is loaded with talent and has a coach who knows how to use that talent properly.
It is a typical schedule for the Kentucky Wildcats in the traditional non-conference slate. They will take on powerhouse programs, a few overmatched programs and a couple of good mid-majors. What is possibly very different is facing Arizona State in The Bahamas.
Kentucky should likely be undefeated going into the game against North Carolina in Las Vegas. Not too long after that Saturday matchup will be the The Battle for the Bluegrass, which is the game that Kentucky is most likely to lose in this traditional non-conference part of the schedule. Louisville is extremely deep and talented themselves. The Cardinals also have the home court advantage in this first true road game for Kentucky.
After facing North Carolina and traveling to Louisville in back-to-back games, the schedule lightens because it is the SEC Conference schedule. It is not a matter of tough stretches as Kentucky is every program’s Super Bowl. Kentucky sells out the road arenas with Big Blue Nation occupying at least 20% of the arenas. It is a matter of which games stand out as the most challenging for Kentucky.
SEC Super Tuesday is literally Big Blue Super Tuesday. Every game features Kentucky and it is a great show of faith in Kentucky by ESPN.
Here are the Five Games Kentucky Could Lose in the Conference Schedule (excluding Kansas in the Big XII-SEC Challenge):
- @Ole Miss – This is the conference opener and there is a possibility that Kentucky sleepwalks their way into conference play. Kentucky can struggle coming out of the gate and they have shown that historically. Last season, UK blew out Ole Miss at Rupp Arena and then faced LSU and got wiped out in Baton Rouge. The 2014-15 Team that was unbeatable struggled against Ole Miss and Texas A&M going into overtime and double overtime respectively in their first two games. The 2012-13 Team lost to Texas A&M at Rupp Arena in their second game of the season and in their opener at Vanderbilt squeaked by with a two point victory. The last conference opener that Kentucky lost was at Georgia in 2011.
- @Florida – Florida should be the second best team in the conference and their home court environment is perhaps the roughest of them all. Florida is the closest to being able to matchup with this semi-professional team. Florida’s style of play should be very interesting against De’Aaron Fox because their 2-2-1 Zone Press may slow him down or speed him out of control.
- @Texas A&M – Texas A&M is a tough road environment or at least it could be? Texas A&M could play inspired considering that they did beat Kentucky last season in a classic, yet controversial game at Reed Arena.
- South Carolina – The Gamecocks have a veteran backcourt and a physical style of play. If the frontcourt of Keita and Silva can get rolling, there is a possibility that Frank Martin can pull this big upset at Rupp Arena on a Saturday Afternoon. If John Calipari does not find a way to get himself ejected from this game, anything can happen.
- @Georgia – Stegeman Coliseum has not been particularly kind to John Calipari. Every season, he warns his team about what it means to play in one of the loudest environments in College Basketball (it is the acoustics). Calipari knows from personal experience what happens when his teams do not come to Georgia and bring their best effort, they lose. The last time Kentucky came to Georgia, the Dawgs were poised to pull off one of the biggest upsets in Georgia Basketball History and deal the undefeated Cats their first loss of the 2014-15 Season of Destiny. Georgia fell apart in the last five minutes of the game despite controlling 35 minutes of the game. Georgia’s game plan was adopted by Notre Dame and Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament against Kentucky. The Wildcats were vanquished thanks to Mark Fox’s blueprint.
The 2016-17 Kentucky Basketball Team is an elite and possibly historic College Basketball Team.
But wait, what about Kansas?
Kansas is a VERY GOOD team that could go very far in March and should win the Big XII, but they are not Kentucky Good. Kentucky is on a different level than Kansas and they are playing at Rupp Arena, not the Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Opponents may have to sneak up on Kentucky to win rather than be the best team that Kentucky plays in the month of January.
One parting thought:
— Fletcher Page (@FletcherPage) November 7, 2016
Kentucky may have to go out of their way to lose.