Kentucky basketball: 5 takeaways from the Wildcats’ preseason exhibition video games within the Bahamas

Kentucky’s males’s basketball workforce spent the final week within the Bahamas for 4 tuneup summer season video games and dominated its competitors in paradise, scoring at the least 98 factors towards every of its opponents and successful (albeit over inferior competitors — however nonetheless!) on common by 50 (!!!) factors per recreation.

The blowouts and the competitors degree weren’t precisely what the ‘Cats will face within the SEC, and even of their nonconference schedule —  particularly with Michigan State, UCLA, Michigan and Gonzaga looming as huge ticket out-of-league showdowns — nevertheless it was the primary and most thorough have a look at this iteration of the roster. And 5 months faraway from a soul-crushing loss to NCAA Event darling Saint Peter’s, this workforce seems extra balanced, and by extension probably extra deadly, because it prepares for the upcoming season.

Listed here are the outcomes of the 4 video games within the Bahamas:

Sport 1: Kentucky 108, Dominican Republic Choose Staff 56 (Stats)
Sport 2: Kentucky 102, Tec de Monterrey 40 (Stats)
Sport 3: Kentucky 118, Carleton College 56 (Stats)
Sport 4: Kentucky 98, Bahamas Nationwide Choose Staff 74  (Stats)

It isn’t simply reigning Naismith Nationwide Participant of the 12 months winner Oscar Tshiebwe who’s fueling optimism round Lexington, both. This bunch — a powerful mixture of younger and outdated — seems to be a extra cohesive unit on the entire with shooters to encompass Sahvir Wheeler, a number of freshmen with lottery expertise and seasoned vets — each by UK requirements and by conventional faculty requirements — whose video games seem on the rise at simply the proper time.

Beneath are 5 key takeaways from what I noticed from their abroad journey. 

1. This workforce will shoot higher

 It is fairly wild to assume that Kentucky, the workforce that may principally hand-pick its roster each season due to its prowess on the recruiting path and by way of the switch portal, ranked a hundred and first in 3-point capturing proportion final season, 172nd the season earlier than and one hundred and fifteenth the season earlier than that. (The final time UK ranked within the prime 100 in workforce 3-point capturing proportion was the 2015-16 season.) After falling to Saint Peter’s as an enormous favourite in March Insanity earlier this yr whereas capturing 4-of-15 from deep, highlighting on-and-off struggles in that division all season, that was clearly a precedence to improve on as a workforce by way of the portal, recruiting and improvement.

To this point that seems to be an space of noticeable enchancment. The Wildcats went 11-of-26 from 3-point vary vs. the Dominican Republic of their first recreation; 7-of-26 of their second recreation; 15-of-30 of their third recreation; and 7-of-23 of their last recreation. That 38.1%, if expanded throughout the season, can be the very best 3-point capturing workforce at Kentucky beneath John Calipari since 2010-11 — and would have ranked top-10 in that class final season in faculty hoops.

The addition of switch Antonio Reeves was among the many extra impactful on that entrance. The previous Illinois State product went 14-of-27 (52%) from past the arc throughout 4 video games, most amongst all UK gamers on the journey. After making 39% of his 195 makes an attempt from deep final season for the Redbirds he seems like a day-one catch-and-shoot risk on this system.

2. UK’s five-star freshmen might be stars

Cason Wallace, the five-star incoming freshman from Texas, was all the time seen as a can’t-miss, no-doubt-about-it one-and-done expertise whose recreation would instantly thrust him right into a starring position. It wasn’t a slam dunk that the identical would go for Chris Livingston, the opposite five-star signee of the category. But it appears more and more probably that Livingston is a bit additional alongside than perhaps UK followers had hoped. He actually dazzled off the dribble and confirmed good contact on floaters. When he had open seems from 3-point vary he dropped them in the course of the cup. He and Wallace seem like an unbelievable duo and collectively, together with the veteran returning gamers, they increase the already-high ceiling of what this workforce will be subsequent season.

Cason Wallace didn’t seem like a freshman in Kentucky’s win over the Dominican Republic Choose Staff.
Chet White, UK Athletics

“I like what Chris Livingston did,” John Calipari informed the media after the primary day of play. “He got here in, every little thing he did was one hand. . . Could not be extra pleased with him.”

3. Daimion Collins is a second-year breakout candidate

Regardless of a five-star pedigree and projections this time a yr in the past that Collins can be subsequent in a protracted line of one-and-dones, Collins struggled at instances as a rookie, taking part in solely 7.4 minutes per contest. Within the Bahamas, although, his leaping potential and willingness to try to put anybody in entrance of him on a poster was, uh, jarring. He performed with zero worry and a ton of confidence like I did not see a lot final season. 

4. Jacob Toppin seems fully completely different

A 6-foot-9 ahead who, up to now, has largely been simply one other man at Kentucky in two seasons after transferring in from Rhode Island, Toppin seemed fully completely different within the Bahamas. Retooled physique. Extra confidence in his jumper. Just a few pull-up knockdown pictures. Flying across the rim. He seems — dare I say it — a bit like somebody with lottery expertise would look on the court docket.

His last two video games within the Bahamas was a stunning show of his potential. In opposition to Carleton he dropped 27 factors on 11 of 14 capturing — together with 5 of 6 from deep. In opposition to the Bahamas within the journey’s finale, he dropped 20 factors on 8 of 15 capturing. 

There’s the plain caveat that the extent of competitors he dominated will not be the identical degree he’ll face this season, nevertheless it’s clear Toppin’s matured bodily and has taken his recreation to a different degree. There’s been a gentle drumbeat since he determined to return to highschool subsequent season that he has totally dedicated himself to reworking his physique and his recreation, and that appears to be culminating with a possible star flip in his last season with the Wildcats.

5. Oscar Tshiebwe can go back-to-back

No participant since Ralph Sampson within the Nineteen Eighties has gained consecutive Naismith Nationwide Participant of the 12 months honors, however boy does it seem like Tshiebwe, Kentucky’s huge, dominant middle, has a great shot to hitch the legend. Tshiebwe wasn’t even the story popping out of the Bahamas partly as a result of there was a lot curiosity across the newbies, however he nonetheless racked up manufacturing as he does, recording 45 rebounds throughout 4 video games and fully proudly owning the paint. The UK system could extra prominently characteristic its guards this season than it did final — it is clear Cason Wallace, Antonio Reeves, Chris Livingston and Sahvir Wheeler will should be closely concerned — however Tshiebwe is on observe to once more run the present in Lexington and can have a practical likelihood of going again to again as the very best participant within the sport. Given the expertise pool round him on this roster, that must be a scary proposition for the remainder of the SEC and the remainder of faculty basketball.

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