What record will Kentucky finish with this season?
Hunter — This Kentucky team’s ceiling could call for more than 25 wins. However, if we’re facing the reality that this group could struggle at parts of their schedule, 18-20 wins could be more in the cards. Neutral site matchups with Duke and Ohio State, as well as a trip to Lawrence, Kansas, to take on the Jayhawks and a renewal of the rivalry with Louisville highlight the non-conference slate, while the SEC is arguably the toughest it’s been in years. No road game is going to be an easy win for the Cats, and a loss or two early on seems likely. A 22-9 record feels like a solid medium between the best and worst case scenarios.
Barkley — 23-8. With Duke, Kansas, Ohio State, Alabama twice, Tennessee on the road and an overall tough SEC slate in 2021, Kentucky won’t have an easy regular season run. John Calipari has put his team in a position to be successful after bringing in transfers Kellan Grady, CJ Fredrick, Sahvir Wheeler and Oscar Tshiebwe and another top-10 recruiting class — not to mention bringing back key players like Davion Mintz, Keion Brooks, Dontaie Allen and others. This team is deeper and more experienced than any that Calipari has coached while in Lexington. The pieces are in place for Kentucky to take a huge leap forward after its 9-16 season in 2020.
Hunter — 21-7. The experience that this squad is going to carry with them into the season will take them far. Trips to Bloomington, Indiana and Louisville will prep the Wildcats for a challenging SEC schedule. Rhyne Howard will win this team multiple games by herself. Her fellow starters will contribute the production necessary for a deeper run in the NCAA Tournament this season. Depth may be an issue, but Kentucky should be able to match up with just about anyone they come across this year.
Barkley — 19-8. Kentucky returned most of its core that fell to Iowa in the Round of 32 last season. The potential No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft, Rhyne Howard, anchors her team with 19.9 career points per game. Her supporting cast, composed of Dre’Una Edwards, Blair Green, Treasure Hunt and Jazmine Massengill, who will likely make up the starting five, will give Kentucky every chance to be successful this season. Their starting lineup is stacked and will be one of the SEC’s deepest, but they run thin on the bench. If role players such as Robyn Benton, Olivia Owens and Nyah Leveretter can step up when their number is called, the sky's the limit for Kentucky women’s basketball in 2021.
Where will Kentucky end up at the end of the season? (SEC, NCAA)
Hunter — Given the landscape of college basketball, it seems more and more teams are reaching the standard that Kentucky has kept for so long. It would be shocking to see a John Calipari-coached team miss the NCAA Tournament two years in a row, so it’s safe to say that they’ll make it that far. Any team can get hot and make a run in The Big Dance, so you can’t rule out a run to New Orleans for the Final Four. With that being said, making it out of the first weekend and into the Sweet 16 would feel a little less sour to BBN this season given what occurred last go-round.
Barkley — As much as Kentucky fans want to hear that their Cats might end up back in the Final Four for the first time since 2015, they’ll probably have to wait at least one more year. This team is deep, talented and experienced — a very different Kentucky teamthan the ones they’re used to. It’s a group of players that’ll bring a style to Kentucky that we might never see again under Calipari, just not one that’ll bring No. 9 to BBN. This team’s ceiling is the Sweet 16 or Elite 8 while having the potential to win the SEC as a whole, despite the conference being deeper than ever before as the rest of the league finds their identity after the recent success they’ve found.
Hunter — Never say never, but it will be tough for the Cats to make a push past the Sweet 16 this season. Howard herself has the potential to take the team further, but the Wildcats will need some role players and bench producers to come out of the woodwork to propel the team any further.
Barkley — Kentucky needs to take advantage of Rhyne Howard while they have her. They don’t have the deepest team in the country, but having the best player in the country on your team can make up for the lack of contribution they otherwise wouldn’t have without her. Howard by herself has the talent to take this Kentucky team to the Sweet 16 this year, but likely no further. They’ll also have their work cut out for them attempting to win the SEC with the brick wall that is the South Carolina Gamecocks who are fresh off a Final Four berth last season.
Who will be a breakout player fans aren’t expecting this season?
Hunter — Sahvir Wheeler’s playstyle is going to make him beloved in Lexington this season. He is going to facilitate the rock, be a pest on defense and play tough. He may not find a large amount of playing time in portions of the season, but he will be a spark plug off the bench and win a few games for the Wildcats when it’s all said and done. Fresh off of setting the single-season assist record at Georgia, Wheeler is going to stuff some stat sheets this year.
Barkley — TyTy Washington; the kid can ball — plain and simple. He won the Player’s First Fan Fest three-point contest at Transylvania University in September and the Iverson Classic back in May. He averaged 24 points and seven assists per game as a senior for Compass Prep, including a 41 percent clip from deep — something Kentucky fans have been waiting for since Tyler Herro suited up for the Cats back in 2018. Washington can be expected to make an immediate impact for Kentucky and may even crack the starting lineup before SEC play begins on Dec. 29. It wouldn’t be farfetched to say Washington could be able to lead Kentucky in the scoring column when the season is all said and done.
Hunter — Redshirt junior Olivia Owens will need to produce in the center role for Kentucky this season. Owens is just one of three forwards listed on the roster. After transferring from Maryland, Owens averaged just 4.4 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. Expect her efficiency and scoring totals to take a steep incline during her second season in the Bluegrass.
Barkley — Jazmine Massengill is set to take over at point guard for Kentucky after losing Chasity Patterson to the pros after last season. Massengill averaged 5.1 points and 3.3 assists per game during her junior campaign after spending her first two at Tennessee. After head coach Kyra Elzy moved Rhyne Howard to small forward and plugged Massengill into the starting lineup on a more consistent basis toward the end of the year, fans were given a taste of what to expect from their future starting point guard which included clutch shots, her ability to get to the rim as well as her court vision — all things she should be able to do and more as Kentucky’s primary ball handler this upcoming season.