Both Kentucky and Louisville are ranked in the preseason top 5. For Kentucky this is no surprise, as they have been ranked in the top 5 over the past 10 years. This is Louisville’s first time in 5 years being ranked this high.
Louisville finished last season with a 20-14 record. In head coach Chris Mack’s first season, he led the Cardinals to an NCAA Tournament. Although Louisville lost to Minnesota 86-78, it capped off a great season for the Cardinals.
This upcoming season, Louisville is ranked 3rd by CBS Sports. The Cardinals have 6 experienced players returning. Steven Enoch, Ryan Mcmahon, Jordan Nwora, Darius Perry, Dwayne Sutton, and Malik Williams are all returning to Louisville. Jordan Nwora (6’8 forward) entered his name in the NBA Draft without signing an agent and said he would return to Louisville just hours before the deadline date. Nwora was named ACC Most Improved Player last season and averaged 17.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. He is a preseason top candidate for the Erving Award for the 2019-20 season. Steven Enoch (6’10 center) also explored his NBA options while entering the draft without signing an agent. Enoch decided it would be best for him to return to Louisville for his senior season. As a junior, Enoch averaged 9.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He has been named a preseason top candidate for the Kareem Award for the 2019-20 season. Dwayne Sutton (6’5 forward) will also be returning for his senior year. In 34 starts, Sutton averaged 10.0 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Sutton will play a huge leadership role for the Cardinals in the upcoming season. Malik Williams (6’11 center) is returning to Louisville for his junior year. Williams averaged 7.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last season. Heading into his junior year, Williams could be a key asset off the bench for the Cardinals. Ryan Mcmahon (6’0 guard) will be returning to Louisville for his redshirt senior season. Mcmahon averaged 7.2 points per game last season for the Cardinals last season. Mcmahon will also play a huge leadership role for the Cardinals.
Louisville has landed two transfers that will be immediately eligible for the 2019-20 season. Former St. Joseph’s star point guard Lamarr Kimble (6’0 guard) has transferred to play for the Cardinals. Kimble averaged 15.6 points per game and was named to the All-Big 5 Second Team. He will likely be the starting point guard for the Cardinals this season. Keith Oddo (6’1 guard) has also transferred over from Richmond where he averaged 0.6 points per game in three seasons. Oddo will be a non scholarship player for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals also have 6 incoming freshmen that could make an immediate impact. Samuell Williamson, Jaelyn Withers, Quinn Slazinski, Josh Nickelberry, Aidan Igiehon, and David Johnson are all highly touted freshmen with very high expectations. Samuell Williamson (6’6 guard) is a 5 star recruit from Rockwall, Texas. Williamson was a Mcdonald’s All American and was invited to the USA Men’s U19 World Cup Team Training Camp. Jaelyn Withers (6’8 forward) is a 4 star forward from Charlotte, North Carolina. Withers chose Louisville over Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and Virginia. Josh Nickelberry (6’4 Guard) is from Fayetteville. The 4 star recruit chose Louisville over North Carolina, North Carolina State, Michigan, Xavier, and UConn. Aidan Igiehon (6’10 center) is a 4 star recruit from Dublin, Ireland. The center chose the Cardinals over Oregon, Kentucky and St. Johns. David Johnson (6’5 guard) is a 4 star guard from Louisville, Kentucky. Johnson chose Louisville over Georgia and Xavier. Quinn Slazinski (6’8 forward) is a 3 star recruit from Houston, Texas. Slazinski chose Louisville over California, Depaul, Georgia Tech, and Houston.
Record: 33-5 (16-4)
NCAA Tournament: Final 4 (2 seed)
Kentucky finished last season with a 30-7 record. The Wildcats made it to the Elite 8 where they lost to 5 seed Auburn 77-71.
Kentucky is ranked 4th by CBS Sports in the preseason rankings. Although Kentucky has some experience heading into the 2019-20 season, they also lost a lot. Reid Travis, P.J. Washington, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, and Jemarl Baker will all be leaving Kentucky. Herro, Johnson, and Washington left early for the NBA Draft. Reid Travis graduated and Jemarl Baker transferred to Arizona. Ashton Hagasns, Nick Richards, Immanuel Quickley, and E.J. Montgomery will all be returning back to Lexington. Ashton Hagans (6’3 guard) averaged 7.7 points and 4.3 assists per game. Hagans was named SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year and was a Freshman All American. Nick Richards (6’11 center) has averaged 4.5 points and 3.9 rebounds in two seasons at Kentucky. Richards will likely be the starting center for the Wildcats and is expected to have an improved season. E.J. Montgomery (6’10 forward) averaged 3.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per game for the Wildcats in his freshman season. Montgomery is expected to play a huge role for the Wildcats this season. E.J. Montgomery and Nick Richards both explored the NBA Draft process before deciding to withdraw their names. Immanuel Quickley(6’3 guard) averaged 5.2 points per game last season. Quickley will compete to be the starting shooting guard for the Wildcats.
Kentucky has one graduate transfer coming in. Former Bucknell power forward Nate Sestina announced he will be coming to Lexington for his final season. Sestina averaged 15.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last season with the Bison. Sestina will likely replace P.J. Washington as the starting power forward for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats have 5 highly rated incoming freshman. Keion Brooks, Khalil Whitney, Dontaie Allen, Tyrese Maxey, and Johnny Juzang will all likely make an impact for Kentucky this season. Keion Brooks (6’7 forward) is a 5 star recruit from Fort Wayne, Indiana. Brooks attended La Lumiere Prep School in LaPorte, IN. Khalil Whitney (6’6 forward) is a 5 star recruit from Chicago, Illinois. Whitney was a Mcdonald’s All American. Dontaie Jackson (6’6 forward) is a 4 star recruit from Falmouth, Kentucky. Jackson is coming off of a torn ACL and torn meniscus he suffered during a high school game in late December. Tyrese Maxey (6’2 guard) is a 5 star recruit from Garland, Texas. Maxey was also a Mcdonald’s All American. Johnny Juzang (6’6 forward) is a 4 star recruit from Tarzana, California. Juzang was named a finalist for the 2018 USA Basketball Men’s U17 World Cup Team.
Record: 31-6 (14-4)
NCAA Tournament: Elite 8 (2 seed)
Overall, I believe Louisville will be better than Kentucky this year. I think head coach Chris Mack was the perfect coach to replace Rick Pitino and to rebuild the Louisville basketball dynasty. Kentucky has a better freshman class coming in but Louisville will be way more experienced. Jordan Nwora will lead the Cardinals and I don’t think Kentucky has a player that will be able to lead like Nwora. Nwora will also have a chance at winning Naismith College Player of the Year.
Louisville vs Kentucky will take place on Saturday, December 28th at Rupp Arena.
Prediction: Louisville: 78 Kentucky: 74