BIG BLUE FANS FOR
2016-17 Season Analytical Writings
The 2015-16 Kentucky basketball team did not succeed on the same level as most of Calipari's other groups, falling to Indiana in the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament. Despite what most members of the Big Blue Nation consider a disappointing season, the Kentucky basketball roster once again will completely transform during the off-season. This has become the standard for the Calipari Era at the University of Kentucky.
So, Coach Calipari has completed seven (7) 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 three champion games, winning one championship. Here we are in late September 2016, on the eve of the 2016-17 basketball season, and the chatter is again non-stop about how “great” this next edition of Cal's Cats will be. The 2015-16 season delivered a more sober manner of looking at the forecast for a pending, new season. As a result, prior to this next season, no one seems willing to talk openly of 40-0. However, some fans, including this one, have private thoughts along those lines. In addition, the Big Blue Nation expects UK to win its ninth Championship, in 2017. In that sense, nothing ever seems to change even though the roster does.
As always, my view ahead for the 2016-17 basketball season is completely blue tinted, my standard operating procedure. No apology for this unabashed optimism would suffice, and I offer no such apology.
Last season's roster started with 14 members, moving to 15 when Freshman Tai Wynyard joined the team during the semester break. Seven of these are gone. Alex Poythress finished his college eligibility, Charles Matthews and Marcus Lee transferred, E J Floreal has given up basketball in favor of track, and three underclassmen (Jamal Murray, Skal Labissiere, and Tyler Ulis) entered the NBA draft in June.
The returning players include Seniors Mychal Mulder, Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis, Junior walkon Dillon Pulliam, Sophomores Isaiah Briscoe, Isaac Humphries, and walkon Jonny David, and redshirt Freshman Tai Wynyard. Coach Calipari has continued his unprecedented recruiting with five (5) new players on the 2016-17 roster from the freshman class of 2016. Each of these newcomers arrive with prolific press clippings and the highest expectations.
The University of Kentucky Basketball Schedule for the 2016-17 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 Stephen F. Austin and Canisius before their trip to Madison Square Garden for one of the most significant November matchups of this coming season against the Michigan State. The Cats return to Rupp for three (3) more home games against Duquesne, Cleveland State, and Tennessee Martin before hitting the road again, this time to Nassau, Bahamas to play Arizona State. For the third consecutive season, the Cats will then face the UCLA Bruins at Rupp on December 3.
After facing Valparaiso at Rupp, the Cats will leave the friendly confines of Rupp for three games. First, the Cats travel to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to play Hofstra. The Cats will then travel to the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas to face North Carolina. The Cats will then face Louisville at the KFC Yum Center.
One final non-conference game will occur on January 28, 2017 when the Cats face the Jayhawks at Rupp. This 13 game schedule includes four neutral court games (Michigan State, Arizona State, Hofstra, and North Carolina) and one road game (Louisville).
The SEC schedule begins on the road at Oxford, Mississippi before a two game home stand against Texas A&M and Arkansas. The remainder of the UK road schedule includes stops at Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, and Texas A&M. The 2017 SEC schedule has the Cats playing home-away series against Texas A&M, Florida, Georgia, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee.
This team will get perhaps its most difficult test of the season when it must face the Louisville Cardinals at the Yum Center. However, the Cats will be vulnerable when they venture out of Rupp to take on Michigan State and North Carolina on neutral courts. In addition, Kansas is always a dangerous opponent regardless of venue. In my opinion, the results in these four non-conference games will define the Kentucky non-conference season because all other non-conference and SEC opponents should 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 Florida, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama. The Cats could approach the season ending road game at Texas A&M with the #1 SEC tournament seed locked up and a #1 NCAA Tournament seed probably 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 2017. In the NCAA Tournament, the Cats should secure a #1 seed, and advance to the Final Four for the fifth time in Coach Calipari's eight 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 2016-17 RECORD:
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks