#2 Kentucky Wildcats: College Basketball 111 in 111

kentucky basketball

Welcome to The Sports Bank’s second annual college basketball season preview series.  Last year we looked at 99 teams in 99 days.  This year, we are being slightly more aggressive and expanding to 111 teams in 111 days.  We will rank the 74 power conference teams and top 37 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order.  We’ll break down rosters, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.

The Kentucky Wildcats tip-off their 2011-2012 season tonight against Marist.  All eyes will be on the top recruiting class in the country which features four McDonald’s All-Americans, three of whom were named to the Naismith Award Watch List.  With that type of talent and a few key returning players from last year, John Calipari will have the Big Blue back in the national title picture.

Check out the ultimate Kentucky Wildcats cheerleader photo gallery.

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99 in 99:#11 Kentucky Wildcats

ashley judd

John Calipari was hired away from Memphis to put the Kentucky Wildcats back on the national map.  In just one season in Lexington, Calipari has done that that and so much more.

The Wildcats lose eight players from last year’s team including five that were selected in the first round of the NBA Draft.  In what seems like it will become a yearly cycle at UK, the program brings in the top recruiting class in the country and could very easily be a Final Four contender.

The Sports Bank’s “99 in 99”ranks the 72 power conference college basketball teams and top 27 mid-major programs.  Click here if you missed teams #13-#99.

By: David Kay
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Title Games Produce Different Fates for Mississippi State, Minnesota

By Mike Gallagher

Don’t get me wrong, winning the Big Ten Tournament would’ve been nice on a number of levels for the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

Not only would it have kept their ridiculous amount of late season momentum going right into the tournament with the auto bid they would’ve received, but in the big picture it also would be a great title and trophy to hold along with an unbelievable comeback story for the school that could be passed over for decades to come.  When it seemed they were done, the 2010 Gophers made a memorable charge through the entire Big Ten to win the league and go to the NCAAs.  You know, all that sentimental crap.

But let’s be completely serious, when it came down to the Gophers getting into this year’s tournament, Sunday’s game had nothing to do with it.

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2009-2010 SEC Basketball Preview: Part 2 of 5

bruce-pearl-painted1by: David Kay

It’s week three of our college basketball previews.  Yes, we have already been previewing the college hoops season that is still a month from tipping off for two-plus weeks.  Why you might ask… because I am more addicted to college basketball than college girls are to showing off their cleavage and finding the shortest skirts possible on Halloween.

Part two of our SEC preview focuses on three programs looking to bounce back from less than spectacular 2008-2009 seasons.  That charge is being led by Kentucky who made the biggest splash in college basketball this off-season by hiring John Calipari from Memphis and as a result, landing the top recruiting class in the nation.  I’m buying the Wildcats like I was Coach Cal paying high school studs to come play for me… Just kidding, but probably not really.

This addition also focuses on a pair of SEC East teams that should make a home in the Top 25 this season, Tennessee and Florida.  These three programs should help the country remember that there is more than football in the SEC.

1. Kentucky (T-4th in SEC East, 8-8 in SEC, 20-13 overall, NIT)

john_calipari_uk_feature2009-2010 Outlook:
People called me out when I picked Kentucky as a top-five team in my post-NCAA Tournament top 25 rankings in April.  Now, they are a sexy pick by practically every publication I have seen to be a legitimate NCAA Championship contender.  Can I say I told you so?  John Calipari’s hiring did exactly what it was supposed to do; attract the best freshman class in the country led by top-five recruits John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.  Add in several talented returning players including Patrick Patterson who briefly tested the NBA waters this summer, and the Wildcats are going to be good, really good.  Like 12-deep good.  Like their back-ups could probably form a starting five that would carry a team to the NCAA Tournament-good.  In case you can’t tell, I think the sky is the limit for this team.

Projected Depth Chart
C: DeMarcus Cousins (Fr)/Daniel Orton (Fr)/Josh Harrellson (Jr)
PF: Patrick Patterson (Jr)/Perry Stevenson (Sr)
G/F: Ramon Harris (Sr)/Jon Hood (Fr)
G/F: Darius Miller (So)/Darnell Dodson (So)/DeAndre Liggins (So)
PG: John Wall (Fr)/Eric Bledsoe (Fr)

Gone: SG-Jodie Meeks, PG-Michael Porter, SF-Kevin Galloway (transfer-Texas Southern), A.J. Stewart (transfer-Texas State)

Player to Watch: Wall- He’s going to be the first overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.  No doubt.  Wall has Derrick Rose-style game and should absolutely thrive in Coach Cal’s dribble drive motion offense.  In fact, I fully expect him to have a Rose-type impact for Kentucky this season.  (And yes, he is the most likely candidate to replace Tyreke Evans and the player I will gush about until people are sick of hearing it this season.)

2. Tennessee (T-1st, 10-6, 21-12, NCAA First Round)

2009-2010 Outlook:
When you look back at the 2008-2009 season, the overall outcome for the Vols was disappointing.  But give credit to Tennessee for playing one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country.  That should all pay off this year as everybody is back for the king of sweating through orange suit coats, Bruce Pearl.  Two things will be key for the Volunteers this season; playing as one unit and being consistent on a nightly basis.  Their athleticism and all-around versatility makes them a tough match-up for anybody, but can they pull it all together?  I say yes, and that they are a top-10 caliber team this season.  If not, they still boast Wayne Chism, who rocks the headband better than any other player in the history of basketball.

ncb_g_chism_300

Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Wayne Chism (Sr)/Brian Williams (Jr)
F: Tyler Smith (Sr)/Emmanuel Negedu (So)/Kenny Hall (Fr)
G/F: J.P. Prince (Sr)/Renaldo Woolridge (So)/Steven Pearl (Jr)
SG: Scotty Hopson (So)/Cammeron Tatum (So)
PG: Bobby Maze (Sr)/Josh Tabb (Sr)/Melvin Goins (Jr)

Gone: Nobody

Player to Watch: Hopson- The former McDonald’s All-American was a major get for Pearl and the most prized recruit the Vols landed in a decade.  The talent was visible last season, but only in spurts.  Too often, Hopson was trigger happy with his jump shot or seemed uncertain about what his role was last season.  That is to be expected of a freshman playing with upperclassmen, but this season I expect those jitters to be worked out and for Hopson to use his crazy athleticism and pretty jumper to become more of a threat for Tennessee.

3. Florida (3rd, 9-7, 23-10, NIT)

2009-2010 Outlook:
While the Gators had their bubble burst on Selection Sunday last season, don’t expect that to happen this year.  That isn’t to say the off-season was uneventful.  Nick Calathes left school to play professionally in Greece while talented redshirt freshman center Eloy Vargas decided to transfer.  Alex Tyus chose to transfer but then changed his mind and decided to stay in Gainesville.  In the end, Billy Donovan returns some nice talent which includes Georgetown transfer Vernon Macklin and highly recruited freshman two-guard Kenny Boyton who is a big-time talent.  The Gators should be a top 25 team all season long.

Magic Donovan Basketball

Projected Depth Chart
C: Vernon Macklin (Jr)/Kenny Kadji (So)
F: Dan Werner (Sr)/Chandler Parsons (Jr)
F: Alex Tyus (Jr)/Erik Murphy (Fr)/Adam Allen (So)
SG: Kenny Boynton (Fr)/Ray Shipman (So)
PG: Erving Walker (So)/Nimrod Tishman (Fr)/Kyle McClanahan (So)

Gone: PG-Nick Calathes, G-Walter Hodge, F-Allan Chaney (transfer-Virginia Tech), Eloy Vargas (transfer)

Player to Watch: Walker- Despite standing just 5’8” tall, Walker emerged as a big-time player his first season at Florida being named to the SEC All-Freshman team.  He was the Gators’ third leading scorer, best three-point threat, and eventually worked his way into the starting line-up by the end of the year.  He will take over the point guard responsibilities from the departed Calathes and should form a potent backcourt with Boynton.

More sportsbank.net SEC Previews/Power Rankings:
Monday: SEC East Teams 4-6 (Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Georgia)
Wednesday: SEC West Teams 4-6
Thursday: SEC West Teams 1-3
Friday: SEC Post-Season Predictions

Thesportsbank.net Pac-10 Preview/Power Rankings:
Teams 8-10 (Washingon State, Arizona State, Stanford)
Teams 5-7 (Arizona, USC, Oregon)
Teams 1-4 (Oregon State, UCLA, Washington, Cal)

Thesportsbank.net Big East Previews/Power Rankings

Teams 13-16 (Rutgers, South Florida, Providence, DePaul)
Teams 9-12 (Notre Dame, Pitt, Marquette, St. John’s)
Teams 5-8 (Syracuse, Louisville, Cincinnati, Seton Hall)
Teams 1-4 (Villanova, West Virginia, UConn, Georgetown)
Post-Season Award Predictions

For all the latest college basketball info, you can follow David Kay on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB