#4 Kentucky Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Kentucky Wildcats

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #4
Conference Rank: #1 SEC

Kentucky Team Page#4 Kentucky Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy Kentucky Basketball Tickets

It is tough to have a disappointing 38-1 season, but that is basically what the 2014-2015 campaign was for Kentucky and Coach John Calipari. The Wildcats absolutely dominated during the regular season, going a perfect 34-0. There were a few close calls along the way, but UK put everybody away in the end. During the NCAA Tournament, they beat Hampton, Cincinnati and destroyed West Virginia to reach the Elite Eight. Notre Dame gave Kentucky a great Elite Eight game, but as Kentucky has done all the season long, they pulled it off in the end. But things changed in the Final Four when Kentucky lost to Wisconsin. This group is vastly, vastly different from last year, but they are still one of the best teams in the country.

2014-15 Record: 38-1, 18-0
2014-15 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: John Calipari
Coach Record: 190-38 at Kentucky, 593-176 overall

Who’s Out:
Just about everybody is out. Kentucky had four players drafted in the NBA Lottery and two others selected in the draft. And that’s not even counting Aaron Harrison, the team’s leading scorer last season, who went undrafted and later signed with the Charlotte Hornets. Karl-Anthony Towns was the first overall pick in the draft and Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles and Devin Booker did not have to wait long to hear their names called. Andrew Harrison and Dakari Johnson were second round selections. All seven of those guys were early entrants into the draft and those seven accounted for 85 percent of Kentucky’s scoring.

Who’s In:
Coach Calipari could run a very interesting lineup this year because of where the best talent lies. Kentucky already returns the best point guard in the league in Tyler Ulis, but now they add top point guard recruits Isaiah Briscoe and Jamal Murray. Briscoe is tough and is more than just a point guard. Murray is 6-4 and can certainly play off the ball too. He is a big-time scorer as we saw over the summer in the Pan-American games. All three want to show off their point guard skills for NBA scouts and Coach Calipari will let them all do just that. However, all three could start too. But the backcourt adds more than just Briscoe and Murray. Charles Matthews would be the highlight of most recruiting classes. For now, he will need to earn playing time by knocking down outside shots. The story is the same for junior college transfer Mychal Mulder. Mulder is often labeled as a shooter, which he does extremely well, but he is a good athlete too. Skal Labissiere is the star of the frontcourt newcomers. Like Briscoe and Murray, he is a five-star recruit and expected to play one season for Kentucky before heading to the NBA. He has a nice offensive game and is a very good shot blocker, but at 6-11 and 225 pounds, he is not the toughest interior player Kentucky has ever had. Isaac Humphries figures to add some much needed depth to the frontcourt.

Who to Watch:
There are returning options in the frontcourt though. Alex Poythress looked good as a freshman and sophomore before playing in just eight games last year before suffering an injury. He is the rare talented senior for Kentucky. On a team full of athletes, Poythress may be the most athletic of them all. The 6-8 senior will find plenty of playing time if he can stay healthy. Marcus Lee is also an interesting forward to watch this season. He only averaged 10.9 minutes per game as a sophomore, but he looked really good in that limited action. The other key returnee is Ulis, the speedy point guard who is ready to emerge as a leader. Ulis had to share the leadership role last year, but this is his team now. He may again have to share point guard duties, but after dishing out 3.6 assists per game and knocking down 42.9 percent of his three-point attempts, Ulis is one of the most dangerous point guards in the country.

Final Projection:
For Kentucky it is all about how well the team comes together by March. There is not a more talented team in the country, but obviously all of the new faces and new roles need to be established. Coach Calipari will make quick work of that and this is a group that should be eyeing another trip to the Final Four. However, the talent may not quite be on the same level as it was last year, so another 38-0 start may not happen.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Tyler Ulis, Sophomore, Guard, 5.6 points per game
Isaiah Briscoe, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Jamal Murray, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Alex Poythress, Senior, Forward, 5.5 points per game
Skal Labissiere, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 74.4 (29th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 54.3 (3, 1)
Field-Goal Percentage: 46.8 (38, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 35.4 (1, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.2 (279, 13)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 34.9 (150, 3)
Free-Throw Percentage: 72.6 (52, 3)
Rebound Margin: 6.8 (15, 1)
Assists Per Game: 14.2 (61, 5)
Turnovers Per Game: 10.5 (23, 1)

Madness 2016 NBA Draft Rankings:
#2 Skal Labissiere
#30 Alex Poythress
#32 Marcus Lee

Madness 2015 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#1 Skal Labissiere
#11 Isaiah Briscoe
#57 Charles Matthews


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