2016-2017 Overall Rank: #2
Conference Rank: #1 SEC
Following a disappointing loss in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Kentucky is back with another loaded recruiting class that should make them one of the best teams in the country. Coach John Calipari never lacks talent on his roster, but like usual this is a very young team that needs to come together and play well as a group. More often than not that does happen at Kentucky and if it does this year, the Wildcats will be among the favorite to win the national championship.
2015-16 Record: 27-9, 13-5
2015-16 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: John Calipari
Coach Record: 217-47 at Kentucky, 620-185 overall
Jamal Murray, Tyler Ulis and Alex Poythress accounted for 47.5 points per game last season. Murray, who led the way with 20.0 points per game was drafted seventh overall in the 2016 NBA Draft, while Ulis, who dished out a team high 7.0 assists, was selected 34th overall. Like Murray, Skal Labissiere left after his freshman campaign at Kentucky and was drafted in the first round. The 6-11 center averaged 6.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game during his lone season with the Wildcats. Marcus Lee, who was the other presence in the paint, is also gone. Even Charles Matthews, who managed to average 10.3 minutes per game needs to be replaced.
With five top recruits coming into the program, Kentucky is certainly reloading yet again. De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk should step right into starting roles in the backcourt, and likely into the 2017 NBA Draft lottery. Fox is already a national Player of the Year candidate and deserves the credit. He is an amazing athlete who can score in a variety of ways. It is likely that Fox will spend more time running the show, leaving Monk to play off the ball and do more scoring. However, Monk too can run the show and expect both to do so this season. Edrice Adebayo is expected to start from day one as well. The 6-10 forward is an amazing athlete who can get up and down the floor and finish above the rim. He will provide plenty of highlight reel dunks. Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones could earn starting roles as well. Gabriel is a very versatile player who looks like a 6-9, 213 pound forward, but can play like a guard. Kentucky also adds Tai Wynyard, Brad Calipari and Dillion Pulliam.
Who to Watch:
Kentucky will probably play a little small this year, at least to begin the game. Isaiah Briscoe opted to return for his sophomore season after averaging 9.6 points and 5.3 rebounds last season. He is not going to provide much when it comes to shooting the ball, but he is an effective slasher. Dominique Hawkins will provide experienced depth on the perimeter. Derek Willis, a 6-9 forward, started 11 games as a junior. He is the only returning shooting threat on the roster and connected on 44.2 percent of his 120 three-point attempts last season. His ability to stretch the defense will come in very handy this year. Seven-footer Isaac Humphries looks to build off a promising freshman campaign. He averaged just 9.1 minutes per game, but can be an offensive force.
Kentucky is completely loaded with talent. As is often the case with Kentucky, they do need to find leadership among their young talent. With Fox and Monk, it should not be much of an issue, but starting three of four freshmen can always be potentially troublesome. Last year’s disappointing early exit from the NCAA Tournament means very little to this team. If the pieces come together, Kentucky should have high hopes for reaching the Final Four with a shot at the national championship.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
De’Aaron Fox, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Malik Monk, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Isaiah Briscoe, Sophomore, Guard, 9.6 points per game
Derek Willis, Senior, Forward, 7.7 points per game
Edrice Adebayo, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 79.5 (32nd in nation, 1st in conference)
Scoring Defense: 68.1 (81, 4)
Field-Goal Percentage: 47.8 (25, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 39.7 (24, 3)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.8 (195, 9)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.6 (75, 4)
Free-Throw Percentage: 69.0 (205, 8)
Rebound Margin: 5.2 (39, 2)
Assists Per Game: 14.2 (111, 5)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.2 (44, 2)
Madness 2017 NBA Draft Rankings:
#7 De'Aaron Fox
#11 Edrice Adebayo
#17 Malik Monk
#54 Isaiah Briscoe
Madness 2016 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#6 De'Aaron Fox
#7 Edrice Adebayo
#8 Malik Monk#13 Wenyen Gabriel
#23 Sacha Killeya-Jones