Kentucky Basketball: The 6 Biggest Threats to the Wildcats' Reign
Kentucky Wildcat head coach John Calipari won his first national championship last season.
Now he, and his Kentucky team, will look to defend their national championship.
While Calipari lost the majority of his incredibly talented national championship team to the NBA Draft, he has done his best to replace the team with another solid recruiting class.
Despite this newly re-loaded Kentucky team, Calipari has his work cut out for him because now, every team will be gunning to dethrone him.
Indiana sophomore Cody Zeller
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Indiana is one of only two teams to defeat Kentucky last season, and the Hoosiers are poised to have a phenomenal season again this year.
Indiana returns all five starters from a team that went 25-8 just a year ago.
The Hoosiers will be led by senior Christian Watford and sophomore Cody Zeller. The pair combined for 27.5 points and 12.3 rebounds per game last season.
Indiana will also feature a recruiting class that boasts four of ESPN’s Top 100 recruits.
Freshman Yogi Ferrell in particular will look to solidify his position within Indiana’s starting five. He will compete with incumbent point guard and senior Jordan Hulls. Hulls will have to be on top of his game throughout the season to hold off the highly rated freshman.
With the return of last season’s incredible starting five and an infusion of phenomenal young talent, Indiana will have a team that will sit near the top of the rankings when the season begins.
They have the firepower to make a run in March, and they are the nation’s best bet to dethrone the mighty Kentucky Wildcats.
UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad
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Both Muhammad and Noel were highly sought after talents that are guaranteed lottery picks in next year’s NBA draft.
The talented small forward leads a recruiting class that also includes wings Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, as well as center Tony Parker.
This group of young talent will look to make an immediate impact on a UCLA team that faced turmoil last season.
The UCLA locker room was rocked by allegations against former Bruins big man Reeves Nelson.
Howland, however, seemed to turn the team around. UCLA ended up sixth in the PAC 12 and registered wins against talented teams such as Arizona, Washington and Washington State.
Howland's biggest victory, however, was ensuring a bright future for UCLA basketball with these four talented basketball players.
A matchup between the Bruins and the Kentucky Wildcats would pit future NBA All-Stars against one another.
The only team that has as much young talent as Kentucky is this UCLA Bruins team.
If the Bruins can come together under Howland, look for UCLA to challenge Kentucky for the right to cut down the nets in Atlanta in March.
Duke Blue Devils
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There are very few coaches that recruits would choose to play for over Kentucky head coach John Calipari.
One such coach is Mike Krzyzewski.
Coach K is arguably the best college basketball coach of all time.
He has coached two national championship teams since 2001 and has not missed the tournament since 1995.
Coach K will be looking to rebound from a disappointing loss in Duke’s opening game against Lehigh.
This season, Coach K returns seniors Andre Dawkins, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly.
This core of returning starters will also be joined by highly touted incoming freshmen Rasheed Sulaimon and Amile Jefferson. Both these players will see significant minutes from the beginning of the season.
Sulaimon’s versatility as a slasher and a shooter could allow him to bust into the starting five at some point this season.
Coach K will be looking to prove that Duke is better than what the nation saw in last years NCAA Tournament.
He returns a talented group of seniors and has two excellent freshmen entering the program.
Combining this great coach with these excellent players will make Duke a dangerous team this season.
John Calipari and Kentucky will want to avoid Duke in March if they want to retain their national championship.
Ohio State Buckeyes
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Ohio State may have lost two of their team leaders in Jared Sullinger and William Buford, but they return the majority of the team that made it to the Final Four last season.
Thad Matta’s Ohio State Buckeyes will feature juniors Deshaun Thomas, Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. in this upcoming season.
This trio combined for an average of 34.5 points and just over seven assists per game.
Look for sophomore center Amir Williams to move into the starting spot left by the departure of Jared Sullinger. If Williams can play to the level expected of him as a former McDonald’s All American, OSU will be as dangerous in the paint as they were last season.
Matta will also look to incorporate sharp shooting freshman Amedeo Della Valle into this core group of veterans. ADV could add value as a shooter to a team that struggled from beyond the arc last season.
Ohio State returns the majority of its team that made an impressive run in the tournament last march.
Thad Matta has filled holes left by departed players and has improved areas of weakness from last year.
The Buckeyes will likely have to go through Kentucky to win the NCAA Championship this season.
However, with their impressive mixture of front court and back court talent and the solid coaching of Thad Matta, Ohio State might just have what it takes to take down the Wildcats this season.
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Florida will look to challenge Kentucky in the SEC this season.
Shooting guard Kenny Boynton will attempt to prove his worth as one of the best players in the nation in this, his senior season.
Center Patric Young will try to build on his impressive season last year.
A solid season from either of these players will bring them a step closer to competing in the NBA.
Billy Donovan will look to integrate a very strong recruiting class that includes point guard Braxton Ogbueze and shooting guard Michael Frazier.
Both of these talented freshmen will be competing for minutes on this talented Gators team.
Florida may be one season away from taking the SEC championship away from the Wildcats.
That being said, Donovan’s young Gators might be able to sneak up on the Wildcats this season.
One thing is for sure. You will not want to miss any game that features these two teams.
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Louisville will be looking to avenge their Final Four loss to Kentucky this season.
The Cardinals exceeded expectations when they won the Big East Championship and reached the Final Four last year.
Louisville will be led by senior point guard Peyton Siva. Siva, who averaged nine points and five assists last season, will lead a balanced Cardinals team that are early favorites to win the Big East.
Louisville will depend on players such as Russ Smith, Wayne Blackshear and Chane Behanan to take on increased responsibility this season.
Rick Pitino will also look to integrate top recruit Montrezl Harrell and former George Mason wing Luke Hancock into this balanced squad.
Louisville’s roster is filled with production. Each player has his role and fills it well.
Louisville will play Kentucky in a game that many, including CBS College Basketball Insider Jeff Goodman, consider to be the non-conference game of the year on December 29th.
This will likely pit two of the nations top five teams against one another.
If Pitino and the Cardinals can take down the Wildcats once, they will be favored to dethrone the current national champions in March.