Kentucky Wildcats Early 2019-20 Season Outlook: Top Four Nationally

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There are still a couple of major decisions yet to be made, but next year’s Kentucky Wildcats looks like a Final Four team, at least on paper.

John Calipari returns a lot of talent from a team that went 30-7 and reached the Elite Eight before bowing out in overtime to a conference rival. Every year this week (the days that follow the national title game) brings a flood of way too early top 25 rankings for the next season. Here’s where the Kentucky Wildcats stand in all of those polls:

CBS Sports (as with all of CBS sports beware the ANNOYING auto-start with sound video) #4, ESPN #3, Sports Illustrated #2, Sporting News #3, Washington Post #4, SB Nation #5

Now let’s take a look at the roster overhaul, remember, this is still a very fluid situation at this point.  

Kentucky Wildcats departures: Reid Travis, PJ Washington 

“PJ transformed everything about his game,” said Calipari in regards to Washington, a former McDonald’s All-American who leading the Wildcats in scoring (15.2 points per game), rebounding (7.5 rpg) and double-doubles (nine).

“He became a national player of the year candidate, he showed his full set of his skills and he improved his stock while helping us become one of the best teams in the country.”

p.j. washington

“What I’m most proud of is how PJ developed into a leader. Every kid is on their own timetable, and the one that PJ followed – which was the best path for him – has put him in a position to do some special things at the next level. I can’t wait to watch his continued growth.”

Video: Washington’s message to BBN

To quote a song in Hamilton: “it must be nice, it must be nice to have Washington on your side,” and it certainly was so for the Kentucky Wildcats.

Washington was a third-team All-American selection by the four NCAA-recognized All-America teams (Sporting News, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, National Association of Basketball Coaches and the AP).

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He might be gone, but he might be back:  Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson 

KJ entered the draft yesterday, but he did not hire an agent, meaning he’s still eligible to return. A vastly talented prospect, one should not expect him to return to Lexington. If he does, great, what an added bonus.

Could we have another year of every media hack making the unoriginal, extremely “Herroball” pun? If so, Tyler would be preseason All-American first team and he could play his way into the 2020 NBA Draft lottery.

He could use another year in school to polish up his game, but he’s also a first round prospect right now as it is.

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Kentucky Wildcats Returnees: Jemarl Baker, Ashton Hagans, EJ Montgomery Immanuel Quickley, Nick Richards

In Hagans, the Cats have their defensive stalwart and floor general coming back, and with that issue already settled, Big Blue Nation should have every reason to dream big in their 2020 visions.

“We had a great season this year but I want more,” Hagans said.

“I know I’ve only scratched the surface with my game and there’s so much more I want to accomplish at Kentucky. Coach Cal and the staff have challenged me since day one, and I know with another season at UK we can chase some special things with the same mindset. I can’t wait to get back to work with my brothers.”

The Naismith national defensive player of the year semifinalist led the Kentucky Wildcats in assists (160) and steals (61) while starting in 30 of 37 games at point guard.

Richards is a McDonald’s All-American who has the potential to do big and bold things in ’19-20.

Kentucky Wildcats Additions: Dontae Allen, Keion Brooks, Tyrese Maxey, Nate Sestina, Kahlil Whitney

Among scoring guard prospects, Maxey is as blue chip as it gets while Whitney is an athletic wing who is a consensus 5-star. The very versatile Brooks is on pretty much everyone’s top 50 lists while Sestina is a Bucknell graduate transfer who fills a role and adds depth.

Also, don’t be surprised if Coach Cal isn’t done adding to the roster at this point either.   

john calipari

Kentucky Wildcats Bottom Line: You know how it is with Big Blue, there are always a lot of moving parts every off-season and every preseason the expectations are stratospheric. This time will be no different.

The BBN should expect to see their first Final Four since 2015…yes, it’s getting to be awhile now! Especially so by Kentucky standards. 

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, regularly appears as a guest pundit on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

He also contributes sociopolitical essays to Chicago NowFollow him on Twitter and Instagram. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to his.

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