One of the questions I always have as a new season approaches is how much the Kentucky Wildcats have improved over the summer. They always seem to reload with talent, year in and year out, but does that necessarily set them up for success in the coming season?
Not only that, but where do other teams in the country stand after a summer of getting rosters set and preparing for success in a new season?
Andy Katz, writing for NCAA.com, has done that work and named the top 16 teams, in his opinion, to improve their stock over the summer.
Now, this list isn’t exclusively about adding talented players, though that is certainly the case for the Wildcats and the Duke Blue Devils.
But the best part of the piece was Katz talking about Texas’ Andrew Jones, who was diagnosed with leukemia last year. Jones has completed chemotherapy and, while there is no timetable for his return to basketball, the fact that he is done with his treatment is good news indeed.
Katz followed that bullet with news that John Beilein is recovering well from his coronary bypass surgery. Those are both definitely positive ways to end the summer for both the Longhorns and the Wolverines.
The last 8 months have been crazy and stressful for me and my family but with the grace of god we can see a better day. I’ll like to say th thanks to all the fans and supports #hookem #aj1Boom pic.twitter.com/r6gsu9uy3k— Andrew Jones (@DrewdotCash) August 24, 2018
It didn’t take long for Katz to get to the two programs set to meet in the opening game of the college basketball season. Duke and Kentucky both got better with a mixture of top recruits and talented returners/transfers. It remains to be seen how these improvements will shake out over the course of the season, but these two teams will be fun to watch.
Here’s what Katz had to say about the Wildcats at number four on his list:
“4. Kentucky is going to be a blast to watch: Don’t judge the scoring margin in the four games in the Bahamas. But some of the stats are hard to ignore. Tyler Herro averaged 17 points a game. Reid Travis was a double-double regular with 10 and 10. Immanuel Quickley had 18 assists and two turnovers. Keldon Johnson made four of nine 3s. And returnees PJ Washington, Nick Richards and Quade Green all were major contributors. Travis doesn’t need to be a savior. He simply needs to be a leader, help with adverse situations on the road with his experience and board.”
Also making the list: the Virginia Cavaliers regrouping after their historic tournament loss, Marquette’s new arena, UCF being contenders for the AAC title, Buffalo and Davidson as mid-major schools to watch, and Loyola-Chicago trying to revamp themselves for another special run this season.
There are certainly lots of storylines to follow heading into this 2018 season. I think the Wildcats have the chance to do something special this season and can’t wait to see things shake out. Be sure to read all of Andy Katz’s top 16 here.
Elsewhere, ESPN’s John Gasaway wrote a piece about what we’ve learned from the summer trips of Duke and Kentucky. When it came to the Wildcats, Gasaway said, “Buy your Tyler Herro stock now.”
In four games, Herro showed an ability to score efficiently from both sides of the arc while personally accounting for 28 percent of the Wildcats’ shot attempts during his minutes.
Justus told me the freshman’s performance was just more of what the coaching staff has come to expect. “I don’t think any of us were surprised at all by how Tyler played,” he said. “He has an extreme confidence that comes from hard work.”
Herro was the unexpected star of the Bahamas trip, and he already looks ready to be a major weapon for a Kentucky team ranked No. 1 in several preseason polls. His game is just so clean, and his shot looks as effortless and pure as any player we’ve seen in Lexington under John Calipari.
Between the summer trips, a new roster full of five-star talent, and Kentucky’s monstrous schedule for next season highlighted by Duke in Game 1, this has become one of the most anticipated seasons of the Calipari era.
What are you all looking forward to this college basketball season?