Is Kentucky basketball back after winning the gold in GLOBL Jam?
The Kentucky Wildcats’ men’s basketball team seemed on the verge of a dynasty in the early 2010s, when head coach John Calipari led the program to four Final Four appearances in five years, including a championship at the conclusion of the 2012 season.
They’ve tapered off significantly since then, though. They were snakebitten during the 2019-20 season, which ended before the then-No. 8 Wildcats could take part in the SEC or NCAA Tournaments because of the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing a season that could’ve ended in a championship to a premature close; suffered to a 9-16 record the following season, their worst margin by far under Calipari; and then exited the tournament following the first round and second round, respectively, during the past two seasons.
Over the past decade and a half, Calipari largely built his roster around one-and-done talents who would depart for the NBA after their freshman season. In the era of the transfer portal, when entrenched veterans can jump ship for a contender with little to no repercussions, he’s going to have to adjust to the times.
Despite their recent struggles (and despite the fact that their season won’t begin for nearly three more months), the Wildcats have already given reason to believe that they’ve put their struggles behind them, that Calipari has rediscovered his knack for guiding them to wins when it matters most.
The Wildcats took part in the 2023 GLOBL JAM contest in Toronto, Canada, going 4-0 against a collection of All-Star teams of rising superstars around the world on their way to a gold medal finish.
As a result, Kentucky Betting Sites are high on the Wildcats this season, listing them at or around +1500 to win their ninth NCAA championship, some of the best odds of any program in college basketball. Odds and promotions offered vary quite a bit from sportsbook to sportsbook, so make sure you shop around if you think you’ve got a winning bet so that you know you’re locking in the best odds of winning big.
No bet is a sure thing, and the Wildcats are no different: while the GLOBL JAM win is certainly a step in the right direction (especially as the calls for Kentucky to move on from Calipari continue to grow louder as the championship drought stretches to a decade-plus), you can only put so much stock in exhibition matches. Here’s a look at what the gold medal win could mean for the Wildcats: are they really back?
Perhaps the most encouraging part of Kentucky’s performance in the tournament is that they managed to sweep the field despite not having their full roster in place yet.
The Wildcats have had an excellent run of luck in both the transfer portal and the recruiting game this offseason, picking up forward Tre Mitchell from West Virginia. Mitchell entered the portal after Mountaineers’ head coach Bob Huggins resigned because of a DUI charge, giving Kentucky a massive boost they otherwise wouldn’t have had.
He played out of position in the GLOBL JAM tournament, slotting in at center instead of forward because of a rash of injuries to the Wildcats’ big men, but showed off excellent versatility in the paint that will prove invaluable should injuries rear their ugly head again over the course of the season.
Incoming freshman Justin Edwards showed his potential as a star in the making during the tournament. These two could end up being a crucial piece of the puzzle for the Wildcats with forwards Aaron Bradshaw and Ugonna Onyenso set to miss time following injuries in the run up to the tournament. The good news is that there’s plenty of time for them to recover before the season starts (and even more time before the games really start to matter as conference play begins), but you never like to see players get injured.
The good news, though, is that Kentucky received another bolt from the blue on Tuesday morning with an extremely late addition to the recruiting class of 2023.
Zvonimir Ivisic, a 7-foot-2 center from Croatia who will turn 20 next week, announced his intent to join the Wildcats for the upcoming season.
He’s played two pro seasons in Europe, coming off the bench during that time. He could stand to gain some weight, as 220 pounds is pretty lanky for his gargantuan frame, but he’s shown incredible potential on defense in limited playing time during his years in the pros.
Kentucky has plenty of supersized talent, so they’ll be able to work Ivisic into the rotation in situations that suit his strengths rather than forcing him to get up to speed out of necessity. With one championship trophy under their belts already in 2023, the sky’s the limit for Coach Calipari and company.