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Kentucky Kernel

The Student News Site of University of Kentucky

Kentucky Kernel

The Student News Site of University of Kentucky

Kentucky Kernel

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Kentucky students generally optimistic about the upcoming men’s basketball season

Travis Fannon
Fans cheer in the student section during Big Blue Madness on Friday, Oct. 13, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Travis Fannon | Staff

Kentucky men’s basketball is set to begin its 2023-24 season in October, with many fans having expectations that are higher than ever after recent years.

With one of the top recruiting classes in the country and some returning players that could come back better than ever, many see this as a very good chance for the Wildcats to make a deep tournament run.

Students especially are hungry for a great season and think that it is very much possible for Kentucky to perform well in the NCAA Tournament and perhaps even win a national championship.

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari directs his team during the No. 6 Kentucky vs. No. 11 Providence mens basketball game in the NCAA Tournament Round of 64 on Friday, March 17, 2023, at Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Even with a roster that consists of many freshmen that have yet to prove themselves, students like freshman Daniel Manwill think that the potential handicap will make things exciting.

“It will definitely make me want to go to games more because the coaches are going to be trying out different stuff, different roster rotations to see which one works, and it’s going to be exciting to see what is the best chemistry out of all players,” Manwill said.

Manwill went on to explain that, while it may be tough for the team in the beginning because of how young the roster is, because of the high level of potential, he believes it will eventually become a top-tier squad.

Sophomore Jed Burris, on the other hand, is not certain that the team will go far in the NCAA Tournament but is still optimistic because of the improved lineup from last year.

“We never know with Cal coaching,” he said. “But I think that with our lineup we’ve got right now, it’s looking really good.”

A major difference between the 2023-24 team and the last year’s team is the addition of seven-foot centers that have great ball handling skills, including freshman Aaron Bradshaw, which is something Burris said he thinks will be a key piece of the team’s identity.

Some of the main freshman recruits, including Bradshaw, DJ Wagner, Rob Dillingham and Justin Edwards, stand out to people like Manwill as possible playmakers.

“Rob has the best handles in college, DJ is reasonably smart, Justin is a good scorer and Aaron Bradshaw is a unicorn, so it’s going to be interesting to see all of them work together,” Manwill said.

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari watches his team during the No. 3 Kentucky vs. No. 6 Vanderbilt mens basketball game in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals on Friday, March 10, 2023, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. Vanderbilt won 80-73. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

Even though a lot of people have their doubts about the team, some are certain that the team will be successful, including sophomore Audrey Maxwell.

“I did not pay attention at all last year, but I have grown up in Lexington, so I believe that we are a basketball school through and through,” Maxwell said. “That is something that Calipari cannot erase.”

Kentucky is slated to play many tough opponents in the new year, including Kansas, Gonzaga, North Carolina and Miami, along with the usual conference games.

There will be many opportunities for big victories that students will be able to celebrate and Maxwell is confident that the Wildcats can come out on top of big games and overall be successful in the future.

“I feel that it is our time soon that we burn the couches again on State Street,” she said. “We will win a national championship in the next five years.”

Following Big Blue Madness, Kentucky will begin play on Friday, Oct. 27, in a preseason exhibition against Georgetown College. The Cats will first see regular season action against New Mexico State on Monday, Nov. 6, starting at 8 p.m. ET at Rupp Arena.

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