In the basketball world, it’s amazing what one year can do for a team in terms of their scheduling.
“Mid-major” programs often have a hard time scheduling power conference opponents on a regular basis, due to a stigma that these teams aren’t as strong as others and don’t do as much for tournament resumes come March. However, smaller programs have shown that they can hang with the big boys in recent years.
Take the N.J.I.T. Highlanders last season for example. The Highlanders faced their first-ever ranked opponent, in the Michigan Wolverines, and won on the road. The Highlanders beat the Wolverines on their home floor, and proving to everyone that you can never underestimate smaller programs in today’s basketball world.
Another team who surprised many with their play was the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks. Coming off an 11 – 5 record in MEAC play, the Hawks made an appearance in the 2015 CIT. They finished with 18 wins overall on the season, which was more than the previous three seasons combined.
With their strong season fresh in the minds of others in the NCAA, the Hawks were able to put together a strong non-conference slate for the 2015-16 season that features games against several power conference foes. The Hawks also take on a slew of talented teams from smaller conferences, all of which will be equally big tests.
Last season, the platoon offense that John Calipari ran at Kentucky made headlines throughout the year. The Wildcats ran to a 38 – 0 record, and advanced to the Final Four to meet the Wisconsin Badgers.
Despite their perfect record, the Wildcats couldn’t finish the year undefeated. They suffered a loss to Bo Ryan’s Badgers, ending their run at perfection.
As the off-season rolled along, the Wildcats remained firmly in the headlines. Their top 7 scorers from last season all declared for the NBA Draft, headlined by Willie Cauley-Stein, the Harrison twins, and talented freshmen Devin Booker and Trey Lyles.
John Calipari then stated that he would no longer run the platoon offense, stating that’s not how he likes to coach.
In 2015-16, the Wildcats don’t have the loaded roster that they had last season. However, they do have talented pieces back in place. Tyler Ulis, Marcus Lee, and Alex Poythress are all back to provide some veteran leadership for the Wildcats. Add in freshmen Skal Labissiere, Isaiah Briscoe and Charles Matthews, and the Wildcats are once again among the elite in the country.