‘I’m really excited.’ Wildcats move on from last season’s losses


Kentucky head coach John Calipari yells at a referee during the University of Kentucky vs. Auburn men’s basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 73-66 to win the SEC regular season championship. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Hunter Shelton

The 2020-21 college basketball season spelled disaster for the Kentucky Wildcats.

What was set to be another year of excitement and winning quickly turned to a season that most fans will painfully remember as one of the worst in the storied John Calipari era. 

Kentucky finished the season 9-16, losing in the first round of the SEC Tournament and failing to make the NCAA Tournament field.

Calipari’s teams had built a bit of a reputation for starting the season slower than most but managing to pick up the pace and find their final form as March rolled around. 

Fans were struggling to stay optimistic for a turn-around, following a six-game losing streak after winning their season opener.  The 1-6 start for UK was the worst in the program’s history in 94 years. 

The beginning of SEC play saw the Wildcats win their first three games, giving Big Blue Nation reason to believe that the team was turning the corner. 

A swift three-game losing-streak would suggest otherwise. The Cats would go on to finish conference play 8-9.

It’s safe to say that Kentucky and its fanbase aren’t used to losing seasons. In the last century, UK has finished the season with a losing record just four times. 

There are plenty of reasons to point towards the cause for the down season for Kentucky, whether it be coach Calipari, the departure of long-time assistant Kenny Payne or the toll that the COVID-19 pandemic took on the team, just to name a few. 

For Calipari, he, like all of the Kentucky fanbase, is ready to look past what was an abysmal 2020-21 campaign:

“My thing is I’m moving on,” Calipari said in September. “I’m not looking back. I don’t have a rearview mirror. I’m looking forward.”

BBN will attempt to do the same as they prepare for another incoming group of talented players, ready to make their mark in Rupp Arena.

Four transfers and three highly touted freshmen join eight returning players to make up the 2021-22 roster. 

The new-look group contains a mix of youth and veterans that have succeeded at lower and higher levels of college basketball. With two graduate transfers and seven juniors, this team will rank amongst the oldest that Calipari has had during his tenure in Lexington. 

“We have options,” Calipari said. “I’m really excited.”

Unofficial pre-season rankings from platforms such as ESPN and USA Today have placed Kentucky anywhere from eighth to 15th, not expecting another down season from the Wildcats. 

Kentucky’s first opportunity to showcase their talent will take place on Sunday, Oct. 10, for Pro Day. Just five days later, the infamous Big Blue Madness will commence. The Cats will play a Blue-White game, as well as two exhibitions, as they prepare for a colossal clash in their regular season opener, taking on the Duke Blue Devils on Nov. 9 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.