Now that the local sport scene is slowing down I will be doing a weekly write up on Kentucky Basketball. We are already eight games in the season and UK has a great 7-1 record but like most seasons the fans aren’t happy with that. Every season the fan base expects an SEC championship and a national championship, those are high expectations and they are the norm for UK though.
This season Kentucky came into the year with a very young team. The Cats are the second youngest team in the country with a average age of 19.43. The team has eight freshman and no seniors, the only player returning with any minutes is sophomore Wenyen Gabriel. With his past team John Calipari has had veterans such Dominique Hawkins to be the early leader on and off the court. Injuries are an early season problem with freshman Jarred Vanderbilt out for a prolonged portion of the season.
With the youth of this team comes the excitement of watching these young players blossom into stars. Kevin Knox is leading the Wildcats in scoring through the first eight games at nearly 17 points a game. The 6’9 freshman is also second on the team in rebounding at six a game. Hamidou Diallo is second on the team in scoring at 13.6 points a game.
On the season the Wildcats are 7-1 and as I said many fans are not happy, unless the team wins by 20 every game you can’t please the entire fan base, with the only loss to a very good Kansas team by four points. The young team though has struggled against veteran teams, winning their opener by ten points over a well coached Utah Valley team in the opener. Vermont came into Rupp Arena and battled to a four point game. With the early season struggles and lack of top teams coming in attendance has been down compared to previous years.
Kentucky travels to Madison Square Garden to face Monmouth in their final tuneup before the schedule turns tough. After facing Monmouth Saturday the Wildcats face Virginia Tech (8-1), UCLA (7-1) , Louisville (5-2), and then begin the SEC schedule.
It only early December and the team is 7-1 but you get the feeling that this team is nowhere near as good as they can be.
If Vanderbilt can return this season and Kevin Knox continues to improve his game this team can win another SEC title, Florida and Texas A&M look to be the toughest challenges in the conference as of today. Knox has the look of being Cal’s next top lottery pick and with the other young stars around him this team should easily be a 3 seed or better come March Madness time. Until then it will be fun to watch this group grow and get better. Will there be losses this season? Yes. Will they look like freshmen in big games? Of course they will, they are freshmen. This season there really isn’t a overall favorite come March, Duke, Michigan State, Kansas, Villanova, Kentucky, there isn’t much difference between the top team to the number ten team in my opinion.
Check back every Friday for a recap of the week in Kentucky basketball and look for special write ups before the big games, the first of those coming for the UK/Louisville game.