With only three days until the college basketball season tips off, the Kentucky Wildcats are clear front runners to win the SEC and make a deep run into March this year. Last year may not have ended how Big Blues fan base wanted it to when Kentucky was stunned by St. Peter’s in the first round, but Calipari has made some big moves in the off season with transfers and incoming freshman players who are ready to step up on the big stage. RETURNERS: The early exit from March Madness last year may have these returners fired up for this upcoming season. Oscar Tshiebwe is the first National Player of the Year to return since Tyler Hansbrough in 2008. Tshiebwe was a double-double machine for the Wildcats last year averaging 15 rebounds and 17 points per game. I have never seen someone want to win more than Tshiebwe and he knows his role on the team. John Calipari shared a tweet that stated Oscar went through a 15 minute procedure to fix some up something to do with his knee, but this should not be a setback for the big man.
The next returner who I believe is going to have a massive impact this year is Jacob Toppin. Toppin only averaged 3 rebounds and 6 points per game last year but don’t let these stats fool you. Toppin has been working hard in the off season and has improved his shot a ton. Calipari and the coaching staff gave him the green light from the 3 point line as well. Coming off the Bahamas trip earlier in August, Toppin showed off his insane athleticism and his 3 points shooting. With Keion Brooks Jr. transferring to Washington over the summer, Toppin is one of the leaders of the team now and should be a huge starting role for the Wildcats all year.
Sahvir Wheeler is another leader for the Wildcats that is returning this year. Last year, he led the team in assists with 6.9 assists per game. If he can minimize the turnovers this year and slow himself down in certain situations, Wheeler will be a force to reckon with on the offensive side.
A name you may not recognize is CJ Fredrick. Fredrick is returning and will be eligible to play this year after being sidelined all last season with an injury. The Iowa transfer averaged 10 points a game while shooting 46% from three during his 2019-20 season at Iowa, and shot 47% from three in his 2020-21 season. I think it’s safe to say the Fredrick can shoot. If there is a Kentucky player that comes to mind when mentioning Fredrick, I instantly think of Derek Willis.
Other notable returners this year for the Wildcats are Lance Ware & Daimion Collins. These two are high energy big play guys who will get the crowd into the game.
NEW TO THE BLUE:
A smaller recruiting class than usual for the wildcats bring on two five star freshmen in Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston. Adou Thiero and Ugonna Onyenso are two freshmen who have shown high upside already early in the pre season.
Beginning with Wallace brings on a combo guard with high defensive upside. By the time March comes around, do not be surprised if you see Cason Wallace in the starting point guard role for the Wildcats as he has great basketball knowledge and doesn’t let the game speed him up.
Chris Livingston from Oak Hill Academy is a stretch forward who can shoot. The tall and lengthy Livingston will have the chance to live up to the hype this season and feed into the system that Calipari wants to run and make a huge impact for the team.
In recent years, Calipari has started the trend of acquiring big time players through the transfer portal. Reid Travis, Nate Sestina, and last years transfer Oscar Tshiebwe are just a couple of the recent transfers from the Calipari era. This years big time transfer is Antonio Reeves from Illinois State. He will be the “go to” guy for big shots this year for the Wildcats. At Illinois State last year, Reeves averaged 20 points per game and was an elite scorer. He can shoot the three ball as well as make plays off the dribble. Keep a close eye on Reeves to have a huge impact this year for the Wildcats.
Big Blue Nation is counting down the days until they tip off of the season. Kentucky will begin their official season against Howard on November 7th at home followed by Duquesne at home on the 11th, then Michigan State at the Champions Classic on the 15th. All of the pieces are in place for the Wildcats and it’s time for them to show it off on the court this year.
- E.A. Woolwine IV (@HammeredDB)