Kentucky Basketball Preview!
By: Mat S.
We are now just hours away from our first looks at the 2022-23 Kentucky Basketball team. Following the historically disappointing loss to 15 seeded St. Peter’s in the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament, the Cats will begin their redemption tour abroad in the Bahamas. Last time we saw Kentucky take a trip to the Bahamas four years ago, we saw a preview of the sophomore breakout season of PJ Washington and the one-and-done Tyler Herro, as both of the Kentucky greats showcased why they would be future NBA lottery draft picks. This time around, here are the top storylines to watch as we might see who the next all-time Kentucky legends will be.
Oscar THREE-bweThe National Player of the Year has returned for another year of college basketball for the first time since Tyler Hansbrough came back to North Carolina in 2008. Oscar Tshiebwe, following the heartbreaking end to the season this past March, has decided to run it back in Lexington.
Tshiebwe had seen his draft stock his draft stock rise throughout the season, getting as high as the late first round, but predominantly sitting in the early second round. With another year of college, Tshiebwe is looking to improve certain facets of his game to get that stock up into the lottery. One of the things he has expressed is wanting to take his jump shot, which he had success within the midrange last year, out behind the three-point arc. And what better time to experiment with a new shot than the exhibition games in mid-August? We know Oscar can finish in the post. We know he can defend. And we absolutely know he can rebound. But if he can also become an offensive threat from the perimeter, watch out SEC.
Breakout Player CandidateJust like Oscar Tshiebwe, Senior Jacob Toppin flirted with the NBA draft process before withdrawing to return for another season in Lexington. Unlike Tshiebwe, Toppin still has so much potential that he is yet to tap in to. Toppin’s three-year college career to date has seen him primarily playing as a role player off the bench – the first year at Rhode Island and the next two at Kentucky.
His sophomore season, his first at Kentucky, freshman breakout star and future lottery pick Isaiah Jackson dominated the minutes at the power forward position. And in his junior season, three-year Kentucky veteran Keion Brooks Jr took the majority of the minutes at the four with Toppin serving as the 6th or 7th man. Now, without another true power forward on the roster, there will no longer be a restriction of opportunity for Toppin. And with more opportunity comes more opportunity to break out and start to recognize some of his potential that we have already seen glimpses of.
Next Calipari One-And-DoneAt this point, it is cliché to say that Calipari is known for bringing in the most talented high school prospects in the world and turning them into NBA superstars. From Derrick Rose during his time at Memphis, to John Wall and Anthony Davis in his early years at Kentucky, to the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns and Devin Booker more recently, Coach Cal routinely gets elite production from his freshmen.
This year, he has two prime candidates to be next in line to join that elite company: guard Cason Wallace and forward Chris Livingston. Obviously, when an elite prospect is going up against high school competition, they are going to dominate. But facing grown men on teams like the Bahamas National Team, we will truly be able to see how skilled and athletic our freshmen are.
Kentucky is set to play Wednesday at 7:00 pm ET, Thursday at 7:00 pm ET, Saturday at 6:00 pm ET, and Sunday at 12:00 pm ET, all of which will be televised live on SEC Network.