Heading into the 2016-17 college basketball season, the Kentucky Wildcats clearly have one of the top recruiting classes. With so many of their top players from a season ago heading to the NBA, the Wildcats should still be perfectly fine next season thanks to the amount of talent coming to Lexington.
However, there is no freshman in all of college basketball who is more important than incoming five-star recruit Bam Adebayo.
Adebayo is a 6-foot-9, 240-pound power forward from High Point Christian Academy in North Carolina, who should have no trouble adjusting to the college game. However, the departure of Kentucky big men in the offseason to the NBA, or due to a transfer in Marcus Lee’s case, means that Kentucky’s 2016-17 season rests on the broad shoulders of this young, future NBA player.
The Wildcats should be fairly confident that they are the favorites to win the SEC heading into next season. Several of the better teams in the SEC from 2015-16 will take a step back, and many of the other teams are still in the midst of a transition period. Even if Adebayo struggles to adjust, Kentucky should be able to use superior talent to win the SEC.
Where things get to be crucial for Adebayo is when the Wildcats head into the 2017 NCAA tournament. Sure, that seems like a long way away, but Kentucky is all but guaranteed to make it to the Big Dance. This entire season should be about building this team into a legitimate national title threat around Adebayo. With so many talented shooters on the floor, his ability to rebound and protect the rim will make or break his team in March.
There is no doubt that Kentucky will be one of the most talented teams in the country next season. However, the player that takes them from being one of the best to being the best, will be Adebayo.