Kentucky Basketball: Before the first game, we already know the most delicate part about Kentucky college basketball in 2021-22: the fans will return.
Last year, the coronavirus severely limited the amount of people who could watch basketball in our state.
While masks may be required this season, it appears that attendance limits for college basketball in the Commonwealth may be lifted. That alone ensures that the upcoming season will be superior to the previous one.
The following are 10 storylines that have the potentia Kentucky Basketball
10. A woman working in a male-dominated field.
The hiring of a new men’s basketball coach at Brescia University would generally go unnoticed. However, when the Catholic institution in Owensboro named Milwaukee Bucks basketball operations aide Sarah Gayler as its new men’s basketball head coach, it made the most intriguing coaching hire in Kentucky in recent years. According to Brescia, Gayler will be the first female to coach a men’s basketball team in the NAIA’s history. The NAIA was founded in 1937.
9. Will Stansbury be able to climb over the hump?
Rick Stansbury has made Western Kentucky men’s basketball interesting with his recruiting success and four straight 20-win seasons. As WKU’s coach, Stansbury has yet to get the Hilltoppers into the NCAA Tournament.
To give it another shot, Stansbury has assembled a roster for the 2021-22 season that is unusually long. Western’s frontcourt includes players that are 7-foot-5, 6-10, 6-9, 6-8, and 6-7 feet tall, as well as five guards who are 6-4 to 6-6 feet tall.
8. Who is the biggest celebrity in our state?
If social media fame is the yardstick, Louisville women’s basketball guard Hailey Van Lith is the player in the commonwealth with the highest star power.
Van Lith, a 5-7 sophomore from Wenatchee, Washington, has over 700,000 Instagram followers. On the floor, Van Lith (11.2 ppg, 5.2 RPG, 63 assists vs 52 turnovers as a freshman) will be the driving force for the Cards as they look to make Jeff Walz’s fourth Final Four appearance.
7. What’s next for Bellarmine?
The Knights men’s basketball programme had a dream season last season, in the first year of Bellarmine’s transfer to NCAA Division I. Coach Scott Davenport’s club was so good (14-8, 10-3 ASUN Conference) that they came within one game of winning the regular-season ASUN title.
With the addition of Eastern Kentucky (22-7 in 2020-21) and Jacksonville State (18-9) from the OVC, Bellarmine will no longer be a surprise, and the ASUN will be more competitive this year.
6. A.W. Hamilton’s “multi-player swap
Colonels head coach Hamilton watched his two best players leave via the transfer portal following EKU’s feel-good 22-7 men’s basketball season in 2020-21.
Tre King (14.9 points, 6.2 rebounds), a senior-to-be power forward, switched to the Georgetown Hoyas, while Wendell Green (15.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 5.0 assists), a sophomore-to-be point guard, selected Auburn.
In response, Hamilton got to work in the portal himself, bringing in Jannson Williams (9.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.0 blocks in 2020-21) and Iran Bennett, both 6-9 Marshall transfers (injured last season, but 9.1 points and 5.3 rebounds in 2019-20).
Hamilton added veteran North Carolina State guard Braxton Beverly, a former Perry County Central standout, to bolster the backcourt.
Trevin Wade, a 5-11 Wichita State transfer, was also added to EKU’s roster. The success of EKU’s first season in the ASUN may hinge on Hamilton’s ability to navigate the collegiate basketball “transactions process.”
5. Is Warrick going to do an encore?
Marques Warrick, a former Henry Clay star, had a fantastic freshman season at Northern Kentucky University in 2020-21. Coach Darrin Horn’s 6-2, 170-pound Warrick was selected Horizon League Freshman of the Year after averaging 15.8 points per game.
Late last season, however, defenders began to play the wispy Warrick with a lot of tenacity. In 2021-22, the question is whether Warrick has discovered an offensive answer to such defensive methods.
4. A three-peat for Rhyne?
The Kentucky women’s basketball star starts her probably final season as one of the five finest — three best? — women’s hoops are players in the commonwealth’s history. Major feats are still in reach for the Cleveland, Tenn., product.
Howard has a chance to earn the SEC Player of the Year Award for the third time in a row. She has 1,655 career points heading into 2021-22.
Howard is on pace to pass A’dia Mathies (2,014) for second place all-time in UK Hoops scoring behind Valerie Still if she has a “typical” season (2,763).
Howard will attempt to guide the UK to its first NCAA Tournament round of 16 appearances since 2016. Kentucky’s first trip to the Final Four would be historic.
3. What about Broome’s encore?
John Broome was one of men’s college basketball’s most surprising success stories a season ago. Broome, a 6-foot-10, 235-pound unheralded recruit from Plant City, Fla., led Morehead State (23-8) to its first NCAA Tournament trip since 2011.
In his freshman season, Broome had 13 double-doubles and averaged 13.8 points and 9.0 rebounds for Coach Preston Spradlin’s Eagles. Can Broome keep ascending with Morehead likely to fight for OVC supremacy once more?
2. Mack’s late arrival.
The Louisville men’s basketball team will play Southern on Nov. 9 to kick off the season. Coach Chris Mack’s first game as a Cardinal will be against Michigan State on Dec. 1. According to the university, Mack has been suspended for the first six games of the regular season after failing to follow human resources regulations in informing assistant coach Dino Gaudio that he will not be retained.
That decision sparked a chain of events that concluded in Gaudio pleading guilty to extortion for threatening to expose NCAA violations committed by Louisville under Mack’s watch unless he was paid.
The NCAA then charged the University of Louisville programme with the alleged rule infractions disclosed in Gaudio’s legal case, alleging that the Cardinals used assistant coaches and team managers in practices and generated illegal recruiting videos.
Mack will lose about $221,000 in salary while completing his nearly three-week ban. Mike Pegues, the Cardinals’ assistant coach, will be in charge for the first six games. It remains to be seen whether any of this has a long-term impact on a crucial season in Louisville’s history.
1. Calipari’s blueprint is extremely different.
John Calipari needed a speedy cure after overseeing possibly the worst season (9-16) in Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball history in 2020-21.
To do so, the coach most closely connected with the one-and-done phenomena took an unusual route: transfer portal veterans. Kentucky’s roster in 2021-22 could be the most seasoned in the program’s history.
The current UK roster has started 367 games in collegiate basketball. Kentucky’s 1995-96 NCAA championship team had a total of 233 career starts. UK’s 1997-98 NCAA championship team had 164 career college starts when the season began.
A veteran-laden lineup resurrecting “the one-and-done programme” in 2021-22 would be a tasty variation.