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2020 SEC Basketball Previews: Kentucky Wildcats

It’s the usual story this year for John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats. Last year’s tremendous success is now mostly in the NBA, meaning an entirely new roster with new names. Calipari will be sure to put together one of the best teams once again in the 2020-2021 season.

2019 Record: 25-6 (15-3), 1st in SEC

Key Returners: (F) Keion Brooks Jr.

Key Additions: (G) Brandon Boston Jr. (No.5 prospect), (G) Terrence Clarke (No.8 prospect), (F) Isaiah Jackson (No.30 prospect), (G) Devin Askew (No.32 prospect), (F) Lance Ware (No.38 prospect), (F) Cam’Ron Fletcher (No.65 prospect), (C) Olivier Sarr (Wake Forest transfer), (F) Jacob Toppin (Rhode Island transfer)

Key Losses: (G) Immanuel Quickley, (F) Nick Richards, (G) Tyrese Maxey, (G) Ashton Hagans, (F) E.J. Montgomery, (F) Nate Sestina

2019 Season

2019 was yet another season with hopes of a Championship, and Kentucky had the pieces to do it. Calipari put together another outstanding team that has once again mostly gone on to the draft.

Kentucky had several non conference losses that were alarming for the fanbase. The Evansville loss particularly comes to mind but losses to Utah and Ohio State were also cause for concern. The worry was futile however as Kentucky finished the season 17-3.

They had several huge wins including opening the season with a 69-62 over then No.1 Michigan State. The Wildcats also had thrilling overtime wins against rivals No.3 Louisville and No.18 Texas Tech in the Big12/SEC Challenge.

2020 Season

Projected Starting Lineup: Devin Askew (G, Fr), BJ Boston (G, Fr), Terrence Clarke (G, Fr), Keion Brooks (F, So), Olivier Sarr (C, Sr)

Starters

The backcourt will feature the three top recruits from the recruiting class. BJ Boston should be the standout of these three and is the lone Kentucky player voted to First Team All-SEC. Clarke is nearly just as anticipated as Boston and is a little bigger with more athleticism. Askew will handle point guard duties and has been scouted as a tremendous ball handler.

Keion Brooks was the No.24 prospect last year. He got buried in the depth chart with all of Kentucky’s talent and played limited minutes. He showed decent rebounding ability and has potential to be a deep threat with some improvement.

Olivier Sarr is a huge snag for Calipari. The Wake Forest standout is massive at 7’0″  and 237lbs and brings great rebounding ability and physical presence in the paint. He’s excellent at getting to the free throw line and has shown mass improvements with each year.

Reserves

Another trio of freshmen will compete for bench minutes and could arguably see some starts throughout the season. Isaiah Jackson is the biggest name on that list. There’s a lot of excitement to see what Jackson can do as he should be an avid shot blocker and defender. There’s a good chance he gives Keion Brooks some pressure for the starting job.

Lance Ware and Cam’Ron Fletcher are the two other freshmen. Ware is the other power forward and should see some minutes off the bench though he’s definitely behind Jackson for the moment. Fletcher is a small forward with good speed and athletic ability on both sides of the ball.

Kentucky has a pair of transfers who could help off the bench. Jacob Toppin is the younger brother of NBA draft pick Obi Toppin and had solid playing time last year with Rhode Island. It’s possible he doesn’t contribute a ton this year but the potential is there for the sophomore.

2020 SEC Basketball Previews: Kentucky Wildcats
Mintz was 18th in the Big East in assist rate in 2019 according to KenPom. (Photo by 247sports.com.)

Davion Mintz saw good development with Creighton in his first three years before a season ending injury last year. He should be Askew’s primary backup and is a capable scorer. Dontaie Allen similarly took a medical redshirt last year with Kentucky. He’s a former four-star prospect who brings a good outside shot offensively.

Kentucky is looking at another star studded lineup with NBA picks all over. Calipari has a knack for getting these young, new players meshing well and playing at a high level. Expect another SEC Title run and a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Prediction: 1st

 

 

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2020-2021 SEC Basketball Projected Standings November 25, 2020 at 6:00 am

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