BIG BLUE FANS FOR
2015-16 Season Analytical Writings
The 2014-15 Kentucky basketball season was one for the ages:
However, the season ended on the ultimate sour note when the Cats failed to finish off Wisconsin over the last 5 minutes to sustain its only loss of the season in the NCAA Final Four. No matter how well a season plays out, unless a UK team brings home the hardware, there will be a sense of falling “one game short.” In 2010, the Cats fell “one game short” of a final four trip. In 2011 and 2014, the Cats fell one game short of another championship. Last year, the Cats fell “one game short” of the a chance to play Duke to complete the impossible perfect 40-0 season.
So, Coach Calipari has completed six (6) seasons at the helm of this program. His teams have advanced to the final four 4 times (2011, 2012, 2014, and 2015) and played in two championship games, winning one championship. Not too bad, and had anyone written that script in March 2009 when Coach Calipari arrived in the Bluegrass, I am not aware of any fan who would have scorned these results without ever playing a game. But, here we are in October 2015, on the eve of the 2015-16 basketball season, and the chatter is non-stop about how “great” this next edition of Cal's Cats will be. For sure, the talk of 40-0 has withdrawn into the woodwork, but it remains unspoken in the back of many Big Blue minds where these thoughts still dance around like visions of sugar plums. The standing Coach Calipari line that he teases the Big Blue Nation with each year still rings true. The Big Blue Nation expects UK to win another Championship, number 9, in 2016 as it does every other year.
Of course it does!
As always, my view ahead for the 2015-16 basketball season is completely blue tinted, my standard operating procedure. I make no apologies for my unabashed optimism for Coach John Calipari's seventh UK team. Just listen to Coach Calipari's own words, and it sure seems that Coach Calipari is also very optimistic about this team.
Senior redshirts Tod Lanter, Brian Long, and Sam Malone have ended their playing careers. Junior Willie Cauley-Stein has departed to the NBA, as have Sophomores Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, and Dakari Johnson. In addition, Freshmen Devin Booker, Trey Lyles, and Karl Anthony Towns have each moved on to pursue their professional careers in the NBA. By my count, that is 10 members of the 2014-15 roster that will not have lockers at UK this coming season.
How can the program sustain itself under such a heavy burden of annual personnel losses? The optimism begins with the players that return for another year, headlined by Senior Alex Poythress, who returns from a season ending injury a year ago for his final run at a championship. This squad includes returning Juniors E. J. Floreal, Dominique Hawkins, Derek Willis, and Marcus Lee. Add Sophomore Tyler Ulis to these seasoned multiyear players, and any astute observer of basketball recognizes the ingredients for another fine basketball team. However, Coach Calipari does not rest on his laurels, and his recruiting efforts truly spanned the globe with Isaac Humphries (Australia), Jamal Murray (Canada), Skal Labissiere (Haiti) and Mychal Mulder (Canada, by way of Vincennes University). In addition, Tai Wynyard (New Zealand) , a recruit for the 2016 incoming class will reportedly enroll at UK after the fall semester and is a 50-50 probability that he will be available for the last 2/3 of the upcoming season. Coach Calipari did not stop there. He also has added American freshmen Isaiah Briscoe and Charles Matthews. Coach Calipari also added Jonny David and Dillon Pulliam as walk on players to this roster.
The predictions and projectionsof 2015-16 season reflect the continuing excitement that still swirls through the Big Blue Nation. Many critics will undoubtedly comment that these predictions are overly exuberant, and I plead guilty to this exuberance! If this team fails to "measure up" to these expectations, the world will not end, and I will acknowledge the errors of my way, but until then, this is my story, and I am sticking to it.
The University of Kentucky Basketball Schedule for the 2015-16 season includes 13 non-conference and 18 SEC games for the regular season. The Cats open at Rupp Arena for a pair of tune-up games against Albany and NJIT before their trip to Chicago for one of the most significant November matchups of this coming season against the NCAA defending Champion, Duke. The Cats return to Rupp for two (2) more home games against Wright State and Boston University before hitting the road again, this time to Miami, Florida to play USF. After a home appearance against Illinois State, the Cats travel to renowned Pauley Pavilion to face the UCLA Bruins in a rematch of last year's beat down that the Cats delivered to a fine Bruin team.
The Cats return to Rupp for a pair of early December games against Eastern Kentucky and Arizona State before they visit the Big Apple on December 19 to face Ohio State at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn before returning to Rupp for their annual grudge match against the Louisville Cardinals on December 26. One final non-conference game will occur on January 30, 2016 when the Cats travel into the hostile Allen Fieldhouse to face the Jayhawks in a rematch of the beat down the Cats handed them last season. This 13 game schedule includes two neutral court games (Duke, Ohio State) and three road games (USF, UCLA, and Kansas).
The SEC schedule begins at Rupp against Mississippi before a two game road swing through LSU and Alabama. The remainder of the UK road schedule includes stops at Auburn, Arkansas, Tennessee, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, and Florida. The 2014 SEC schedule has the Cats playing home-away series against LSU, Florida, Alabama, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee.
This team will get perhaps its most difficult tests of the season early when it ventures out of Rupp to take on Duke and Ohio State on neutral courts, and UCLA and then Kansas (in January) in their gyms where paybacks will be on their minds. In my opinion, all other non-conference opponents will be double digit underdogs to these Cats. In the SEC, the road trips are always potentially perilous, but in my view, the Cats will play the entire SEC schedule from the position of the favorite. The predicted margins will be smallest on the trips to LSU, Vanderbilt, and Texas A&M. The trip into Gainesville is difficult to project given the dismal end to the Gator's season last year and Billy Donovan's departure to coach in the NBA. The Cats could approach the season ending road game at Florida and season ending game in Rupp against LSU undefeated with a second consecutive perfect conference season within reach, with the #1 SEC tournament seed locked up and a #1 NCAA Tournament seed in hand.
Calipari's Cats will enter the SEC Tournament as the team to beat, and the Cats will fend off all challenges and win another SEC regular season and SEC Post Season Tournament championships in 2016. In the NCAA Tournament, the Cats should secure a #1 seed, and advance to the Final Four for the third consecutive season, and the fifth time in Coach Calipari's seven seasons at UK. Given the Cats' record in Final Four and Championship games, I believe the UK Wildcats will bring home the hardware for the 9 th time on the first Monday of April.
PREDICTED 2015-16 RECORD:
SEC Tournament: 3-0 [SEC Tournament Champions]
NCAA Tournament: 6-0 (NCAA Tournament Champiions)
Final Record: 38-2
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks