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Men's Basketball

Three Bold Predictions for Kentucky Basketball

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UK Athletics

The hype for this upcoming basketball season may be the most we’ve seen in the commonwealth since the Harrison twins announced they were coming back in 2014 after a championship loss, but for good reason.

Kentucky returns the National Player of the Year, Oscar Tshiebwe, along with the SEC assist leader, Sahvir Wheeler. Pair these with transfers Antonio Reeves, two five-star freshmen, and several other key returnees, this a talented and deep group.

With all that being said, here are three bold predictions for Kentucky basketball this season.

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Kentucky will have its best defense since 2015

The 2015 Kentucky basketball team was an absolute juggernaut defensively and was widely considered one of the best college basketball defenses of all time. They were ranked 3rd in the country giving up just 54 ppg, but ranked first in opponent field goal percentage at 35 percent.

This defense notoriously held a UCLA team that made the Sweet Sixteen to just seven points in the first half of their regular season matchup.

If you need more evidence of the historical greatness of this team, look at this deep dive done by the New York Times.

With that said, this year’s team has the tools to be an elite defensive team given the speed and length in the backcourt, along with elite athleticism and length in the frontcourt as well.

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Wallace and Frederick will be huge in setting and locking down opposing guards, and from the looks of the season opener, Reeves is a better defender than originally thought as well.

With help from Tshiebwe, Collins, and now Ugonna Onyenso down low, this team can wreak havoc defensively as they did in the exhibitions giving up 38 and 53 points respectively.

Daimion Collins will be a 1st round pick in the 2023 NBA draft

Collins is one of the most underrated players eligible for the 2023 NBA draft as he will be able to make a huge jump this season.

Standing 6-foot-9, Collins can jump out of the gym with a 46.5-inch vertical – which he has used to dunk on numerous people – and uses that to be a fantastic rim protector.

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Combining this with a stronger frame and improvement in his ball-handling and shooting, Collins can take a big step this season and catch the eyes of the NBA.

If Collins improves can showcase an improved offensive game over the course of the season, he will be a very good option for the NBA already being freakishly athletic and having such a large upside.

Kentucky will not lose more than one game in conference play

John Calipari teams typically hit their stride in March, just in time for tournament play to begin.

However, this has not been the case the past couple of seasons as they have been playing maybe their worst basketball at the most important time of the year, whether it be due to injuries (2021-22) or just bad basketball (2020-21).

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With the amount of experience on this team, this team should not take as long to hit their stride and it should be expected to see them flourish through the heart of conference play.

On paper, the SEC is still extremely tough, but Kentucky’s schedule may be a little weaker this year than last, with just three ranked games on the road. As we speak, Warren Nolan has the Wildcats predicted to go 15-3 in the SEC this season.

Last season, Kentucky lost some tough road games, so expect this year’s team – with a lot of returnees – to come out with a chip on their shoulder against teams like Arkansas, Auburn, and Tennessee

With that said, two of those teams, Arkansas and Tennessee are two of the three best teams in the SEC behind Kentucky, and the Wildcats play them on the road again this year. It will be a difficult task to win all three, so expect to drop at least one of them.

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This will be an extremely difficult task for the Wildcats – and this is a BOLD prediction – but it is feasible that Kentucky could win the SEC and finish with just one loss in conference play.


In the end, these may or may not happen, but college basketball is here and Kentucky is poised for a great run. What are your bold predictions for this season?

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Men's Basketball

Lamont Butler Believes In Mark Pope And Will “Do Whatever It Takes To Put A Number Nine Up In Those Rafters”

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Lamont Butler transferred to Kentucky to prove that his more than just a defender.
Photo by Eddie Justice | UK Athletics

Lamont Butler has proven himself as one of the premier defenders in college basketball over the last four seasons at San Diego State, having earned MWC All-Defense honors in three straight seasons and winning the 2024 MWC Defensive Player of the Year Award.

With that level of defensive impact, Butler had no shortage of interest when he put his name in the transfer portal this Spring. In less than 48 hours after officially entering the portal, he had his decision, choosing Kentucky and becoming just the second commit of the Mark Pope era.

Butler’s parents, Lamont Butler Sr. and Carmicha Butler, recently spoke to KSR about how the family decided on Kentucky and what kind of player and young man the Wildcats are getting.

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“I can start off simply by saying that it’s Kentucky,” Lamont Sr. said. “Most kids in America, if they ever got the opportunity to play for a program like that, any kid would jump at it. With Lamont being in the position in life that he put himself in, it was the perfect move for him.”

While the brand of Kentucky Basketball is a big selling point, and one that Pope is emphasizing more than Calipari did, it was not the only selling point. The other big part was how Butler was going to be used at Kentucky, and Pope and his staff hopped on a plane to Las Vegas where he was working out, to do just that.

“We were at the gym working out, when, all of a sudden, we see the men in black coming in,” Lamont Sr. said. “I’m like, wow. It was the whole kit and caboodle. They were serious about Lamont.”

Before meeting with Butler and his family, Pope was already very familiar with his game having competed against him for three seasons at San Diego State in the MWC, and that certainly showed.

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“He practically broke Lamont’s game down,” Carmicha said. “He told him how he played, who he is, how he wanted to use him, his plans for him at Kentucky, and what he wanted to do with him. For me, it was amazing for Pope, who he never played for, to know that much detail about my son, on and off the court. That was a major plus, a major benefit.” 

Pope’s plan for Butler though is to show off his full game. While he is known as a defender, there is much more to his game, with his father highlighting his unselfishness and leadership.

“Lamont is the type of player who’s unselfish to a fault,” Lamont Sr. said. “I was telling someone, that Lamont scored 1,000 points but would’ve passed those 1,000 points up to make the right play. There are too many selfish players in the world. Everybody wants me, me, me, me, me. Lamont is about us, us, us. I told him that’s what’s going to take him far in life.” 

Those two characteristics are a big reason why Pope wants Butler on the ball, rather than off the ball which was the case most of the time he was at San Diego State.

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“It doesn’t matter to Lamont, but Pope is going to have him on the ball. That’s what a lot of people don’t know,” Lamont Sr. said. “That’s what it’s going to be, to lead the team and make sure he’s playing faster than he’s ever played.”

The primary thing though, Kentucky fans are getting a player who is willing to do whatever it takes to put another banner in the rafters.

“They’re getting somebody who’s going to give it his all on the court, injured or not,” Lamont Sr. said. “He’s going to be out there and do whatever it takes to put a number nine up in those rafters. That’s what Lamont is coming to do.”

Also published on A Sea of Blue.

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Men's Basketball

Trent Noah Says He Looks up to His Friend Reed Sheppard, On and Off the Court

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Noah: UK Athletics, Sheppard: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

The level of high school basketball talent in Kentucky is the best it has been in several years. Last year, Kentucky fans got to witness the emergence of Reed Sheppard, and they are hopeful more of “Kentucky’s own” can help the Wildcats on the court under Mark Pope. Two such players are coming in next season, Mr. Kentucky Basketball Travis Perry of Lyon County, and Trent Noah of Harlan County.

The latter was recently interviewed by a fellow Kentucky native and former Wildcat, Cameron Mills, and the UK Sports Network. In that interview Noah not only talked about his excitement to join his home-state program and preparation for this coming season, but he also talked about looking up his friend and former teammate Reed Sheppard.

“He’s (Sheppard) such a great player. One of the best I have ever been around,” Noah told Mills. That just doesn’t stop off the court either. “He is a really good person. A really good friend. Someone I look up to.”

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Noah is just one year younger than Sheppard, but both are from the 13th region and the two formed a friendship when they were teammates for two seasons in the Adidas 3SSB Circuit with Midwest Basketball Club. What does Noah look up to Sheppard most for?

“He’s such a great leader. He’s always leading by actions. He just knows how to play. He has that natural gift. He’s always in the right spot at the right time. He obviously shoots the cover off the ball.”

Noah notes that to take some of those attributes and apply them to his game wouldn’t do anything but help them.

Toward the end of the interview, Mills asked Noah a theoretical question: “In an NBA-style three-point contest, who’s winning, you or Reed?”

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We know that Sheppard just shot the third-best three-point percentage in Kentucky basketball history, but he shot just over 30 percent in high school. Whereas Noah shot 43% (102-237) from 3-point range as a senior. With that, Noah is taking himself. “He can shoot it, but I don’t know if I can say he would beat me.”

It’s pretty cool to see the connection that Kentucky’s own have with the program and share with each other. Check out the full interview below!

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BB Recruiting

2025 Five Star, Potential Reclass Candidate Will Riley Begins Kentucky Visit

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2025 five star prospect and reclass candidate, Will Riley, takes his official visit to Kentucky June 4th-6th.
IMAGN/USA Today

Will Riley, one of the top rising seniors in the class of 2025, is set to begin a two-day official visit to Kentucky on Tuesday. This was first reported by Kentucky Insider last week.

The 6-foot-8 small forward out of Malvern, PA, is currently down to five schools: Kentucky, Arkansas, Arizona, Illinois, and Alabama, and is leaving the possibility of playing professionally in the NBL in Australia. Riley is coming off a visit to Illinois and will visit Alabama later this week.

Already considered a consensus Top 25 prospect in the country according to 247 Sports, ESPN, and Rival, Riley’s stock is only continuing to rise. His calling card is his scoring ability and he has put that on display this Spring.

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Through the first four sessions of the Nike EYBL circuit, he is averaging 21.9 points per game, on fairly efficient numbers, shooting 49.6 % from the field,  31.7 % from three-point range, and 79 % from free throws. Riley also adds 4.7 rebounds per game and 2.5 assists per game in just under 30 minutes.

A possible reclass candidate, Riley is considering making the jump from the 2025 class to the 2024 class. That decision is yet to be determined, adding an element of suspense to his potential future in college basketball.

With one current scholarship remaining for the upcoming roster, Kentucky is open to Riley reclassing and joining this year’s roster, underlining the significance of his potential addition to the team.

However, Jaxson Robinson’s commitment makes it less likely that Kentucky would be the choice if he does reclass. If he decides to remain in the 2025 class, Kentucky would remain toward the top of his list.

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Does Riley become the first top 25 recruit in the Mark Pope era?

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