#9 Kentucky Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview

Kentucky Wildcats
2017-2018 Overall Rank: #9
Conference Rank: #1 SEC
 Kentucky Logo
It will be the same old story this season with Kentucky as John Calipari has brought in an entire new group of top freshman recruits. This year will be even more extreme than most as the Wildcats return only one player who averaged more than 10 minutes of playing time last season. Kentucky will have no juniors or seniors on the roster, which could cause serious experience issues. The Wildcats will have no shortage of pure talent, but in a stronger SEC this season they can’t afford to suffer any setbacks due to inexperience.
2016-17 Record: 26-5, 16-2
2016-17 Postseason:
NCAA Tournament
John Calipari
Coach Record:
249-53 at Kentucky, 652-191 overall
Who’s Out:
Kentucky is without their top seven scorers from a year ago. Freshman sensations Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox, and Bam Adebayo all became one-and-done players. Monk collected awards in his lone season at Kentucky, winning the Jerry West Award, SEC Player and Freshman of the Year and was a second team All-American. Fox was a first team All-SEC selection and led the conference in assists. Fox stepped up big in the SEC and NCAA Tournaments, highlighted by a 39-point performance in the Sweet 16. Adebayo was named to the second team All-SEC and led Kentucky in double-doubles, rebounds and blocks. Isaiah Briscoe departed after two seasons at Kentucky. Briscoe held the Wildcat lineup together with his experience and versatility. Derek Willis was a key senior presence last year, and he always seemed to hit big shots for the Wildcats. The Wildcats will also lose Isaac Humphries, Dominique Hawkins and Mychal Mulder, none of which averaged more than five points, but each provided important minutes throughout the season.
Who’s In:
Coach Cal brought in his typical group of premier recruits. Hamidou Diallo joined the Wildcats in January, but did not see any playing time. Diallo considered bolting to the NBA, but the former top-ten recruit elected to remain at Kentucky. Kevin Knox, Quade Green, Nick Richards, Jarred Vanderbilt and PJ Washington are the five-star guys joining Kentucky this year. Knox was a late addition who could be the most versatile forward on the team. Green will take over the point guard reigns while Richards is a strong presence in the paint. Vanderbilt and Washington are both power forwards, though Vanderbilt will miss the start of the year with a foot injury. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jemarl Baker are both four-star guards who will see plenty of playing time. Most of the five-star guys are post players, so it will be key for Gilgeous-Alexander and Baker to give Kentucky valuable minutes in the backcourt.
Who to Watch:
Wenyen Gabriel is the lone returner who played extended minutes last season. Gabriel appeared in all 38 games and made 23 starts. Gabriel averaged 4.6 points and 4.8 rebounds, but he struggled to give Kentucky reliable minutes down the stretch. Sacha Killeya-Jones will be a sophomore after a disappointing freshman campaign. Killeya-Jones was a five-star recruit a year ago, but he played in just 14 contests, averaging 2.9 points in 6.9 minutes. Tai Wynyard is another sophomore who failed to provide much as a freshman. Wynyard is a former four-star recruit who has played for New Zealand’s U19 team at the FIBA World Cup, but he only played 3.6 minutes per game in 15 appearances last year.
Final Projection:
John Calipari has made a career out of winning with elite freshmen, but this season could be one of his biggest challenges yet. Kentucky won’t have a single upperclassman in their rotation and return only one player who gave Kentucky double-digit minutes a year ago. The incoming recruits are some of the best in the nation, but they will all be learning to play together on the fly. The SEC is stronger than it has been in recent years, so Kentucky could struggle to retain their spot at the top of the conference if they have issues with their maturity.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA Tournament
Projected Starting Five:
Quade Green, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season

Hamidou Diallo, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Kevin Knox, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
PJ Washington, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Nick Richards, Freshman, Center, DNP last season
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 84.9 (10th in nation, 1st in conference)

Scoring Defense: 71.5 (156, 8)
Field-Goal Percentage: 47.3 (37, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.4 (98, 7)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.0 (211, 7)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.3 (159, 5)
Free-Throw Percentage: 70.3 (165, 7)
Rebound Margin: 4.7 (39, 3)
Assists Per Game: 15.4 (59, 2)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.7 (56, 1)
Madness 2018 NBA Draft Rankings:
#3 Hamidou Diallo
#15 Nick Richards
#19 Kevin Knox
#23 Jarred Vanderbilt
Madness 2017 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#12 Jarred Vanderbilt
#13 P.J. Washington
#14 Hamidou Diallo
#17 Nick Richards
#23 Quade Freen
#32 Shai Gilgeous- Alexander
#70 Jemari Baker