The table is set for the Kentucky Wildcats to put on a show for Big Blue Nation this season. They have quality veterans, star freshmen, and balance across the board.
College basketball is a tricky game, though. The best team does not always win, especially in a single-elimination tournament format. So while I think this team is absolutely capable of winning a national title, there is a lot of basketball yet to be played.
However, there are a few things that I think we can guarantee for this season. Get your sharpie out and follow along.
This will be a top-3 scoring team in Calipari era
John Calipari’s Kentucky teams have not exactly set the world on fire on the offensive end. These are the top scoring teams for his time in Lexington:
- 2016-2017 - 84.9 points per game
- 2015-2016 - 79.5 points per game
- 2009-2010 - 79.3 points per game
- 2011-2012 - 77.4 points per game.
All of these teams had two primary scores and then a third contributor. The 2018-2019 Wildcats are going to be able to score from 5 positions and will have 3 more scorers coming off the bench.
Although there will be a lot of scoring coming from the post with this team, Keldon Johnson or Tyler Herro will likely lead the team in points. And both of them should score plenty.
When all is said and done, this team will crack the top three on the scoring list for Coach Cal’s teams at Kentucky.
A primary point guard will emerge
Currently, Immanuel Quickley seems to have a slight edge in the point guard race. However, Ashton Hagans is listed as a first round NBA Draft book on multiple platforms. It is great to have two quality guys at the point, especially in the college game.
But in order to be a team that competes for a national title, they needs to have one point guard that leads the team to the promised land. It’s like they always say: “if you have two
quarterbacks point guards, you don’t have a point guard.”
I could easily speculate and make a case for either guy to be the guy, but only one thing is for certain: by the time we get to March, either Quickley or Hagans will have separated himself as the primary point guard.
Reid Travis will average a double-double
This is almost too easy. He averaged nearly 18 points and 9 rebounds the last two seasons at Stanford when he was easily the best player on the team. While I do think his scoring will decrease due to being surrounded with more talent, how much easier is it going to be for him to clean the glass when opponents also have to box out PJ Washington, Nick Richards, or EJ Montgomery?
One of John Calipari’s favorite phrases is “everyone eats.” When it comes to rebounding the basketball, nobody is going to benefit more from the talent around him than Reid Travis. Look for him to average 12 and 12 this season, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake in the paint.
This team plays every game with a chip on its shoulder
It is hard to imagine such a talented team with a deep bench feeling disrespected. But that is exactly what will motivate the Kentucky Wildcats this season. They are not going to get the credit that they feel they deserve, and they will be determined to prove everyone wrong.
The disrespect card is already being played, as Bleacher Report posted on Thursday that Kentucky’s biggest weakness is the fact that they have “no star.” I have four or five guys up in Lexington that would beg to differ.
PJ Washington responded to the tweet with a simple “Lol,” and I would love to hear what Keldon Johnson said in private. Then you the two time All PAC-12 selection Reid Travis and EJ Montgomery, who seems to have the skill set of a lottery pick.
To dump a ton of salt in the wound of the “no star” angle, SportsCenter is going to be dominated by Duke highlights every day this season. RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson are going to get all of the national attention focused on college basketball. They are very talented and deserve a great deal of attention, but it will be interesting to see how this extremely talented Kentucky team responds to being the “other story” during all college basketball segments on national television.
The cupboard gets left bare at end of season
Kentucky fans have grown used to a max exodus each season when the next round of one-and-done players roll through. That is what makes a season like this one so special; there are some guys that came back for another run.
I do not foresee the Wildcats being in a similar situation next year. I would bet the house on Kentucky losing six rotation players at the end of the season, and I could see as many as eight.
Reid Travis will be out of eligibility. I fully expect PJ Washington, Keldon Johnson, Nick Richards, and EJ Montgomery to enter the draft. Based on current projections, Ashton Hagans would be likely to go as well.
Tyler Herro has shown that he very well may be a one-and-done as well, assuming he can continue to improve on the defensive end. And there is always a chance that someone like Jemarl Baker decides to transfer.
That would leave zero returning players in the front court, and a couple of guards coming back to compete for time with next year’s talented group.
While Coach Cal has given fans no reason to believe any season will be a complete bust, Big Blue Nation should cherish this season and these players because next year’s team will have a completely different look.