Odds to win title: +700
2014-15 Record: 38-1
Betting odds c/o Bovada
The Kentucky Wildcats pulled a late heist in recruiting to add three five-star recruits and three four-star to go alongside returnees Tyler Ullis, Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress.
The Wildcats again are favorites to take the NCAA title, after falling shy when eliminated by Wisconsin in the Final Four. NCAA basketball oddsmakers set the line at +700 for the Wildcats to win the 2016 NCAA title.
The Kentucky Wildcats have one of the best backcourts in the NCAA.
Ullis, Isaiah Briscoe and Jamal Murray are a strong three-guard rotation, and each is a former five-star recruit. Ullis had a great freshman campaign but had to split time with Andrew Harrison. Now he is the go-to point guard on a loaded roster and his 43 percent three-point shooting will keep the court spaced. Last season Ullis averaged 5.6 points and 3.6 assists per game.
Briscoe and Murray are both big time scorers and are playing to earn NBA bids.
Freshman Charles Matthews is a top-100 recruit and superb athlete. JUCO transfer Mychal Mulder is another three-point shooter who will get time. The Cats also have former Kentucky Mr. Basketball winner Dominique Hawkins who is a premier defender off the bench whose role cannot be minimized as a guy who can come in and put the clamps on a hot opponent.
The Cats benefit from Poythress’ injury history by having his experience in the frontcourt. Junior Marcus Lee and the 6’11” five-star recruit Skai Labissiere form a big, powerful Kentucky frontcourt. Poythress tore his ACL, but coach John Calipari said he expects him to be “a beast” when he returns to the court.
Lee is a big shot blocker and has the athleticism to own the glass, and after having been a role player for two seasons he is ready to be a full-time starter. Last season he posted averages of 2.6 points and 2.7 rebounds per game, but with the full time starting role those numbers may increase six-fold.
Labissiere may be yet another No. 1 overall pick at center and he can change a game from the paint. Derek Willis is a 6’9” junior who should add some nice depth, along with 7’0” freshman Isaac Humphries who was a late addition to the recruiting class.
Labissiere has a well-rounded game and he will draw double teams, it will be up to Poythress and Lee to finish off the passes that will come as a result of it, in addition to the host of shooters knocking down the open threes.
Poythress is now the marquee player on this team, though Labissiere may up stage him by late in the season. Ullis, Briscoe and Murray have to be the shooters they are, and this team will be very hard to stop. This team might not win its first 38 games, but there’s schools of thought on whether that is even a good thing.
The Wildcats felt the pressure of a perfect season by the time it reached the tournament, and if this team is not as good as last year’s that does not mean it is not good enough to win a title. Maybe that goes without saying.
There’s simply too much talent in Lexington not to expect this team to at least reach the Final Four. Ullis will then have to have the poise to take this team the rest of the way, because as the floor general it is going to be him mostly to pace this team.