Can The Kentucky Wildcats Cut Down The Nets In 2023?
It is hard to believe, but head coach John Calipari will be entering his 14th season in Lexington when the college basketball season begins in a few months. Even though the Kentucky Wildcats have only won one NCAA national championship in that span, the program has knocked on the door of greatness during the entire duration of Calipari’s career there.
The team appeared to be well positioned to make a run in the 2022 NCAA Tournament, but had their hopes dashed in shocking fashion by 15th seeded St. Peter’s.
Despite the disappointing ending, the University of Kentucky men’s basketball program seems well positioned to rebound, and will be considered by the sports betting public as a favorite to win it all in 2023.
The Big Man Is Back
In somewhat of a surprising outcome, junior big man Oscar Tshiebwe decided to return to Kentucky for his senior season. It was unexpected because the Congo native absolutely demolished the competition in the Southeastern Conference in 2021. He averaged over 17 points and 15 rebounds per game, and also added nearly two steals and two blocks per contest as well. Tshiebwe had previously been a solid player as a freshman and sophomore for the West Virginia Mountaineers, but really found his stride as a Wildcat.
Simply put, the 6’9” Tshiebwe’s presence puts Kentucky in the highest tier of teams heading into the college basketball season.
Since his career at Kentucky began, Calipari has been known as the pre-eminent “one and done recruiter” in college basketball. Some of the most talented players in the country would play for the Wildcats with the full intention that their career in college would only last one season. As a result, Calipari and his staff would find themselves in a mad dash to create chemistry in a really short amount of time.
While the Wildcats do have reinforcements Chris Livingston and Cason Wallace joining the team, they will likely be anchored by players who have spent a little time in college already. Tshiebwe, Keion Brooks and Sahvir Wheeler were all large parts of the rotation last year, and will be seniors once next season tips off. Jacob Toppin(brother of New York Knicks forward Obi Toppin) will also be a senior and figures to play a role as well.
The team will still need to find their groove once the newcomers arrive, but having a roster full of veterans should help that chemistry develop a little bit easier.
To state the obvious and say the least, the Kentucky Wildcats had one of the most embarrassing conclusions to a season in recent memory. It does help that St. Peter’s went on to the Elite Eight, to prove that they were in fact a legitimate team, but the Wildcats did not expect to be bounced from the tournament so early.
We have seen recent examples of teams bounce back from a crushing defeat to achieve great things in recent years. The Virginia Cavaliers had the distinction of being the first number one seed to ever lose to a 16th seed in NCAA Tournament history. The following year, they won the championship. It would not be surprising to see Kentucky do that next season.