The Kentucky men’s basketball program finds itself in familiar territory under the direction of eighth-year head coach John Calipari. UK is faced with replacing more than 75 percent of its scoring and 70 percent of its rebounding, yet a select panel of media voted the Wildcats to repeat as Southeastern Conference champions. Should Kentucky achieve that standard, it would mark the fifth regular-season title under Calipari and the program’s 48th overall.
It’s the 12th time since the 1998-99 season the Wildcats are the overall preseason favorite. UK was picked to win the title a season ago and did not disappoint, sharing the crown with Texas A&M. Calipari has directed his teams to regular-season SEC crowns in 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2016.
Each school selected media members that cover their team and additional media from across the nation were selected by the conference office to comprise the voting panel. Points were compiled on a 14-13-12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. Each media member also voted for two All-SEC teams.
In addition to the preseason poll release, four players were selected to the preseason All-SEC squads. Freshmen Bam Adebayo and De’Aaron Fox were picked to the first team, while sophomore Isaiah Briscoe and freshman Malik Monk were tabbed to the second team.
Adebayo and Fox were joined by Arkansas’ senior forward Moses Kingsley, Georgia’s senior guard J.J. Frazier and Texas A&M’s sophomore center Tyler Davis. Kingsley was tabbed the preseason pick for the league’s player of the year award. Briscoe and Monk were named to the second team alongside of Florida’s sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen, Georgia’s junior forward Yante Maten, LSU’s sophomore guard Antonio Blakeney, Mississippi State’s sophomore guard Quinndary Weatherspoon and Vanderbilt’s senior forward Luke Kornet. Ties were not broken.
Adebayo was the North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year after averaging 18.9 points and 13.0 rebounds for High Point Christian Academy as a senior. He was an All-USA Boys Basketball Second Team selection and a McDonald’s All American Game Morgan Wootten Player of the Year finalist. He led High Point to an appearance in the state title game, while also earning selection to the McDonald’s All American Game and the Jordan Brand Classic.
The 6-foot-10 forward was ranked in the top 10 by ESPN (No. 5) and Rivals (No. 7). He was listed as Scout’s No. 11 overall player and 247Sports ranked him at No. 12.
Briscoe is the team’s unquestioned leader heading into his sophomore season after a stellar freshman campaign. The 6-foot-3 guard is the team’s leading returning scorer at 9.6 points per game and rebounder at 5.3 boards per outing. Briscoe was UK’s best on-ball defender a season ago, while also ranking third on the team in scoring, including posting double-digit tallies in 18 contests.
He dished out three or more assists in 15 of his final 23 games played and had a pair of double-doubles. The Newark, New Jersey, native ranked ninth in the league a season ago with 32.2 minutes played per game. Following his freshman season, he ranked among top-10 performers in the Calipari era in total assists, assist-to-turnover ratio and assists per game for a single season.
Fox is a Naismith High School Player of the Year finalist, and was named a first-team selection his senior season for both the All-USA Boys Basketball and the Naismith All-America squads. He played in both the McDonald’s All American Game and the Jordan Brand Classic. In the latter, he earned co-MVP honors with Monk after scoring a game-high 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting to go along with five rebounds.
Fox was a three-time all-state performer out of Cypress Lakes High School in Texas. He was tabbed the Texas Gatorade High School Player of the Year in 2016 after leading Cypress Lakes with a pair of back-to-back 40-point performances in the Texas high school state playoffs. The 6-foot-3 guard was ranked as the No. 6 overall player in the class of 2016 by ESPN, Rivals, Scout and 247Sports.
An explosive 6-foot-3 guard, Monk is capable of scoring in a variety of ways. He captured the 3-point shooting contest at the McDonald’s All American Game and finished runner-up in the slam dunk contest showcasing his athleticism.
Monk was the 2016 Arkansas Gatorade High School Player of the Year in addition to earning the state’s Mr. Basketball award. He averaged 28.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game as a senior at Bentonville. Known for his scoring ability, Monk set a single-game school scoring record with 53 points in a game during his final campaign. A consensus five-star athlete out of high school, Monk was rated as the No. 9 overall player by ESPN and Rivals, No. 10 by 247Sports and No. 13 by Scout.
Kentucky begins its season Friday in the annual Blue-White Game at Rupp Arena at 7 p.m. Tickets for the Blue-White Game are still available. 200-level tickets are $5. The game will also air live on the SEC Network.