It may not be games that count, but we’re just a day away from actual Kentucky Basketball games.
The Wildcats tip off their Bahamas trip against the Bahamas National Team on Wednesday, and there’s no doubt that a lot of people will be watching.
Kentucky will play a roster that features six freshmen and another newcomer via graduate transfer, so there will be plenty to prove. Based on the makeup of this year’s Wildcats and the strengths and weaknesses of last year’s Wildcats, here are three things to look for in game one of the Bahamas trip.
Kentucky struggled mightily shooting from 3-point range last year, shooting just 35.5 percent as a team. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was the only thing close to a reliable option from deep, as he shot 40 percent. Even Kevin Knox struggled, shooting just 34 percent.
That’s expected to be a different story this year. The Wildcats have brought on Tyler Herro, who’s supposed to have an excellent jumper, and Jemarl Baker will contribute to the shooting effort as well, if he can stay healthy.
In today’s college game, you have to be able to shoot the 3-pointer if you’re going to compete for a title. There needs to be some indication that Kentucky can shoot in the Bahamas.
Kentucky’s best rebounder last year was Jarred Vanderbilt, who left for the NBA Draft, and without him last year, Kentucky would’ve looked a lot worse on the boards.
Luckily, there’s a lot of indication that the Wildcats will be improved in that category this year. The most obvious sign of that is the addition of Reid Travis, who has averaged close to nine rebounds the last two seasons.
In addition to that, Kentucky’s leading returning rebounder is sophomore PJ Washington, and Nick Richards’ 6-11 frame is returning as well. Tack on 6-10 freshman EJ Montgomery, and there’s a reason to believe that Kentucky can really bully opposing teams on the glass.
The game against the Bahamas National Team will give us an early indicator into how much the returnees have progressed. Richards struggled with being an imposing presence on the glass last year, and it’d help to see Washington show improvement as well.
Keldon Johnson’s versatility
Johnson may be the most important player this year, because he’s the biggest potential star. In the first game, I’d like to see just how versatile he is. He’s touted as a guy that can play 1-3, but at 6-6, we’ll have to wait and see if he’s able to play the wing in front-court role.
There’s no doubt that he could excel at both guard spots, and as a third guard on the wing, but I’m interested to see how many different places John Calipari plays him in during game one.
Kentucky and the Bahamas National Team will tip off on Wednesday at 7 p.m. It’ll be live on the SEC Network. It’s the first of four games the Wildcats will play while on the Bahamas trip.