20/21 Kentucky Wildcats Season Preview, Odds, Analysis, Key Games


Ten is the most relevant number to Kentucky Wildcats basketball right now as it’s both their ranking in the AP preseason poll, and the number of new players coming into the squad this season. The John Calipari era at Kentucky has been all about annual roster turnover, and churning is standard here, but this is next level.

How will it all play out in Lexington? What does the sports betting community think of their chances and their odds this upcoming season? Well, it’s the bluest of the blue blood programs, but they’re not the favorites in 2020-21.

They are just outside the top five, being given the sixth most favorable national title odds at around 13/1 or (+1300). The non Gamstop Casinos allow not only playing slots, but also betting on sports, including basketball. So you’ll probably want to check them out and lay a bet or two on Kentucky. After all, the Bluegrass state is synonymous with sports gambling, as the world’s most brand name horse race, the Kentucky Derby attracts sports bettors from all over the world each year.

The Wildcats Final Four odds are more favorable, as only three teams (Gonzaga, Villanova and Baylor) are backed better to reach the final weekend of March Madness. You’ll see the Cats typically priced at about +200 or 2/1 in this regard. They are 23 point favorites Wednesday night in the season opener, at home against Morehead St. in the Bluegrass Showcase event.

Calipari managed expectations for the upcoming season by labeling Sunday’s preseason scrimmage the worst he’s ever seen.

“I told my wife. She said, ‘Wow, was it good?’ I said, ‘It was our worst scrimmage since I’ve been the coach here.’” Calipari said.

“I’ve got both feet and hands on the panic button right now. I’m just hoping that they needed to play against somebody else and they just got tired of each other. Because if not, I’m going to have to be the most patient soul on the earth when we start the season like 0-6. ‘Just be patient.’ That’s what you should say to me: be patient.”

“Because I like the team. Not playing hard enough. Not enough team defense. Everyone is still locked into their own thing. ‘I need my stuff,’ instead of making easy plays. ‘I’ve gotta make a play.’ And so, it leads to turnovers or putting guys in bad positions.

“We have a ways to go. And again, we’ve got 10 new guys. ‘You do it every year.’ We have 10 new players. So, we’re not very good right now, but I think in time we should be OK.”

He also added that his team has a bunch of shot blockers, but they aren’t able to block shots right now.

So with all that said, let’s do the 20-21 Kentucky Wildcats season preview.

Last we left them 

The Kentucky Wildcats ended the 2019-20 season 25-6, SEC champions, and the #1 seed in a SEC conference tournament that didn’t happen.

He’s left us

Well, pretty much everybody, and we covered that earlier in this post, so we might as well just skip ahead to the next subsection. Eight of the top nine scorers from last season and all five starters are gone.

He’s returned 

For all intents and purposes, this is a one man category. Keion Brooks, who averaged 15 minutes a game last season, is the only rotation guy who returned.

And he won’t be ready to play when the season starts either.

“I do not believe he’ll be here the first week [leg injury],” Coach Cal said on media call yesterday.

“It’s day-to-day kind of stuff, but he hasn’t done live stuff yet. So, we’ve gotta get him doing live stuff even though he’s conditioning and all the other stuff. Until he’s in there, I don’t feel comfortable.”

He’s arrived 

UK’s eight-man freshman class is ranked number one in the country and it features six consensus five- and four-star prospects, including top-10 signees Brandon Boston Jr. and Terrence Clarke. Boston and Clarke find themselves on all the key preseason award watch lists.

The Wildcats also signed Wake Forest transfer Olivier Sarr and Rhode Island transfer Jacob Toppin, who were ruled immediately eligible last month.

Kentucky Wildcats Key Games 

#6 Kansas Dec. 1, #12 Tennessee Feb. 6 and Feb. 20, #19 Texas Jan. 30, #22 UCLA Dec. 19. Other dates on the calendar to circle are against unranked teams LSU Jan. 23, Florida Jan. 9 and Feb. 27, Alabama Jan 12 and Jan 26. The annual bluegrass showdown with Louisville is Dec 26.

Kentucky Wildcats Bottom Line 

Kentucky will need to replace 94% of its scoring from last season, 92.4% of the minutes played, 84.4% of rebounding, 98.6% of assists and 91.5% of the shot blocks. 

While this is the most scoring that Coach Cal has had to replace in one season, this isn’t totally unprecedented. Calipari says this team reminds him of a previous squad.

“It was a different kind of team,”

“Maybe a more physical team. This team isn’t really physical. The team I had in ’14 (2013-14 season), we started five freshmen. The two guards (the Harrison twins) were physical. Julius (Randle) was physical. Even James Young was physical. And I think, was Dakari (Johnson) on that team? I think he was. He was physical.

“So, this team doesn’t have that physique. If you remember that team, we didn’t figure it out until March and then we tweaked some stuff and it totally changed who we were. But early on, I mean, we played Michigan State and we were down 20.”

“It was like we were getting smoked. Not quite as bad as when we had Tyler Herro and that crew when they had us down 40. This is a different one.

“Trying to get them on the same page. I think what’s going to happen is, they’ve gotta get smacked a little bit to where they’re looking at me like, ‘Coach, tell us how we gotta do this because we’re not liking this.’ I think the biggest thing this group—They gotta understand we’re all tied together. Your jobs are to pick each other up.”

“Your jobs are to make it easier for each other. If you’re out here doing your own thing and these two guys struggle, you two, all the stuff you think is going to happen ain’t happening. Believe me, I’ve done this 35 years. I know I look 40 but I’ve done it a long, long time.”

Can’t have body language. Can’t have meltdowns. You’ve gotta be with these guys and really locked in. Yesterday showed us that we have that in us. Oh my gosh. Let’s hope we got it out yesterday, because if that becomes who we are, whew, going to be rough.”

Nicknamed the “tweakables,” the 2013-14 Kentucky Wildcats finished the season as national runners-up and ranked #2 in the nation.

They also finished second in the SEC where they went 12-6, with an overall record of 29-11.

Despite what Calipari said about what his team looks like right now and where they are, he compared them to a side that was one win away from taking the big prize. That is obviously high praise.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB NationFollow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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