Marcus Lee

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Looking Forward: Potential Breakout Stars in 2015-16

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With the early entry process over and with just about every elite recruit having picked a school, we now have a pretty good idea of what college basketball will look like in 2015-16. Over the next three weeks, we’ll be taking an early look at next season.

Today, we’re Looking Forward at potential breakout stars:

Grayson Allen, Duke: The argument could be make that Allen has already broken out. That’s what happens when a freshman goes from struggling to get off of Duke’s bench to being arguably their most important player in a come-from-behind win in the national title game. Allen is going to once again have his work cut out for him getting playing time — that’s what happens when three five-star perimeter players join the program — but he should be Coach K’s best slasher next season.

Malik Pope, San Diego State: Pope’s tools are off the charts. He’s a 6-foot-9 wing with length, athleticism and three-point range. He finally got healthy midway through his freshman season, and proceeded to put together a handful of dominant performances for the Aztecs last season. If he adds some strength, improves his consistency and — most importantly — stays healthy, we could be looking at a lottery pick.

Isaac Copeland, Georgetown: Copeland is such a skilled forward. In addition to being 6-foot-8 and athletic, Copeland is the kind of versatile offensive talent that usually thrives under John Thompson III. With the Hoyas losing Josh Smith and Mikael Hopkins, there are going to be front court minutes for the taking.

READ MORE: The NBCSports.com preseason top 25

Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame: Jackson flashed some of his ability during last year’s NCAA tournament, but the fact of the matter is that the talented and athletic point guard was the fourth-best player on the Irish as a sophomore. Don’t be surprised to see him become an all-american as a junior as he takes over Jerian Grant’s role.

Jakob Poeltl, Utah: Poeltl could have been a lottery pick had he decided to go to the NBA this spring. Instead, Larry Krystkowiak will have a chance to work his magic with the Austrian big man for an entire offseason. Poeltl’s potential is very high, and while he was inconsistent as a freshman, Poeltl was fantastic in the month of March.

Marcus Lee, Kentucky: Will Marcus Lee finally get his chance this season? The former top 30 recruit has proven to be effective in the limited minutes that he has played the last two season, but his minutes have been understandably limited during his time in Lexington. He may not be Willie Cauley-Stein or Karl Towns, but Lee should be an excellent sidekick to Skal Labissiere in Kentucky’s front court.

Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin: Koenig was brilliant when he got the chance to replace the injured Traevon Jackson as Bo Ryan’s primary point guard midway through the season. With the Badgers losing so much this offseason, Koenig and Nigel Hayes will be tasked with keeping the Badgers in the Big Ten’s top four.

Josh Hart, Villanova: Hart is the typical power wing that Jay Wright has been so successsful with over the years. He’s a better scorer than he gets credit for and is a terrific defender and offensive rebounder. Hart should end up being an all-Big East player this season.

Dillon Brooks, Oregon: Brooks reclassified in the spring and enrolled at Oregon a year earlier than initially expected, and it ended up being fantastic for Dana Altman, as Brooks was, at times, Oregon’s best player. Expect more of the same from him as a sophomore.

Jonathan Motley, Baylor: Motley was just a three-star recruit when he arrived in Waco, but the athletic, 6-foot-10 center had some truly dominating performances during the year. Motley, teaming with Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince, will give the Bears one of the nation’s best front lines.

Ben Bentil, Providence: Bentil was fantastic for the Friars for stretches late in the season, and with LaDontae Henton graduating, there will shots and rebounds available for Bentil to collect.

No. 1 Kentucky rolls through Grand Canyon with 85-45 win

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Kentucky’s first platoon jumped out to a 7-0 lead to start the season opener against Grand Canyon. The second platoon followed with a 7-0 run of its own when it entered the game. Neither one of John Calipari’s units had issues with Grand Canyon, as the top-ranked Wildcats breezed to an 85-45 win on Friday night at Rupp Arena.

First platoon: Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Alex Poythress, Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein

Second platoon: Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles, Marcus Lee, Dakari Johnson.

Nine of those 10 players scored, led by Andrew Harrison with 16 points (scored 12 in the first half), 12 from Cauley-Stein and Lyles with 11 off the bench. The frontline was as advertised with five of Kentucky’s big men corralling at least a handful of rebounds with Johnson (12) and Towns (eight) leading the way. That frontline defense also protected the rim, rejecting a total of 10 shots while creating second-chance opportunities with 22 offensive rebounds.

With under four minutes to play, Calipari abandoned the platoon system and inserted Ulis into the lineup with both Harrison twins, Poythress and Cauley-Stein. This was a lineup we saw in August during the Big Blue Bahamas Tour: Ulis and the Harrison twins in a three-guard set to close out the game for Kentucky, although, at that point, the Wildcats had a 30-plus point cushion. It’s worth noting that will be a lineup Kentucky will uses moving forward.

Kentucky will face a more competitive opponent on Sunday afternoon in Buffalo, which will be a lead up to Tuesday night’s top-5 showdown against No. 5 Kansas at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis.

Kentucky has thrown down 77 dunks so far (VIDEOS)

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Kentucky is going to dunk a lot this season. That was made clear during the six games the Wildcats played in the Bahamas this past August. Exhibition opponents, Pikeville (Kentucky) and Georgetown (Kentucky), can attest to that as well.

Here is the video evidence, courtesy of Wildcat Dunks, a YouTube account that has been around since January 2013, but has put in work the last three months, serving as a warmup for more highlights to come over the course of the next five and a half months.

Although, this video does not include Alex Poythress dunking over the 7-foot Dakari Johnson, or Poythress and the Harrison twins throwing down back-to-back-to-back windmill dunks.

John Calipari releases the results from the Kentucky NBA draft combine

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Last Friday, Lexington, Kentucky played host to 90 NBA scouts and front office personnel as John Calipari showcased his 2014-2015 Wildcats with a Kentucky open practice.

The two-hour NBA draft combine, aired on ESPNU, put players through drills, spot up shooting and 3-on-3 and 5-on-5 scrimmaging. If that weren’t enough, Calipari, via his personal website, released the results from the team’s open practice on Tuesday afternoon. It’s 45 pages worth of information ranging from personal background to results in the bench press and shuttle run.

Courtesy of Jonathan Lintner of the Courier-Journal:

UK’s 2014 combine practice booklet

Kentucky currently has eight players projected to be drafted next June by ESPN draft guru Chad Ford. Six are slated to hear their names called, according to DraftExpress.com‘s mock draft.

90 NBA scouts and front office personnel attended the Kentucky draft combine

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Kentucky, which will enter the year as the top team in the nation, held a highly-anticipated event on Friday afternoon. While the TV guide listed the two-hour time slot as “Kentucky Basketball Practice” it was really a platform for John Calipari’s players to showcase their abilities to the decision-makers at the next level.

Jay Bilas welcomed a national TV audience to ESPNU‘s coverage of Kentucky’s NBA draft combine by informing viewers that 90 NBA scout and front office personnel were off to the sideline watching the latest crop of prospects for the Wildcats. Ninety.

For two hours players were put through drills, 3-on-3 scrimmages, spot-up shooting, five-minute shooting and finally 5-on-5 scrimmages.

Calipari took a few moments to step away from his genius idea come to life to talk to the ESPNU crew of Bilas, Seth Greenberg and Avery Johnson.

“If it goes the way it’s looking, it may be something we do every year,” Calipari told the crew.

“I did one (combine) in 2011, postseason and it got outlaw. This will probably get outlawed, too,” Calipari said before jokingly warning other coaches about copying his NBA-filled practice.

Later in the broadcast a graphic went up on the screen ESPN NBA Draft expert Chad Ford’s big board. He had eight players from Kentucky being selected. Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein going in the lottery, Alex Poythress in the late first round. The Harrison twins, Dakari Johnson, Trey Lyles and Marcus Lee — all projected early second rounders — were slotted as top-50 picks. The current DraftExpress.com mock draft has six Kentucky players going in the upcoming June draft. Of course, draft boards are subject to change, always and forever.

Regardless, Kentucky’s draft combine was a success. It had college basketball’s attention focused on Lexington and its players on a Friday in October. That could be very well be the case next Friday when the school hosts its annual Big Blue Madness at Rupp Arena.

Kentucky’s John Calipari hired a director of statistical analytics this summer

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Kentucky head coach John Calipari appeared at the Greater Louisville UK Alumni Association Tipoff Luncheon on Monday. Earlier that day, the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook became another preseason publication to pick Kentucky as the top team entering the 2014-2015 season.

The Wildcats are a safe pick, especially after they went 5-1 on their nationally-televised Big Blue Bahamas Tour, playing 10 guys consistent minutes. That depth is made even more impressive when you factor in Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles were both sidelined for that trip. Following the team’s stint in the Bahamas, Calipari said he thinks Kentucky will use platoons this season.

However, that depth made Calipari go out and hire Joel Justus as Kentucky’s director of statistical analytics this offseason. Justus, who was officially hired on Aug. 28, has previously been the head coach at Davidson Day High School (North Carolina) and has also been an assistant coach at Elon.

Steve Jones of the Courier-Journal was in attendance for Caliapri’s speech on Monday in Louisville, as the UK coach explained the need for the new position.

“If you’re playing 20 minutes, what will your NCAA stats look like? Terrible for NCAA stats, so we’re going to have big data stats, per-minute and efficiency stats that we can send to NBA teams.

He added: “Our NCAA team stats should look pretty good.”

Currently DraftExpress.com, has Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, the Harrison twins and Alex Poythress in its early 2015 NBA mock draft, and that could eventually include Marcus Lee, or Trey Lyles, or both. This isn’t the only thing Calipari has done to ensure his players have the best opportunity at the next level.

On Sept. 9, a report surfaced that Calipari was looking to hold a two-day scouting combine for NBA teams in mid-October.