With yet another freshmen-laden team, a slew of potential first-round picks, a preseason Top-5 ranking and Final Four expectations, John Calipari’s Kentucky squad is once again one of the most compelling teams in America. As has become an annual tradition, one of the biggest factors when it comes to crafting the national championship picture is how quickly and effectively Coach Cal can get his young-but-talented roster to gel.
If you’re looking to watch the Wildcats this season, most of their games will be broadcast on the SEC Network, while several others will be on the ESPN networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU) or CBS. A complete schedule can be found here.
Fortunately for those who are without cable or are looking to watch games away from a TV, all of these channels can be watched online via your computer, your phone or another streaming device by signing up for one of the following cable-free, live-TV streaming services:
DirecTV Now: ESPN, ESPN2 and CBS (live in select markets) are included in all four of the base channel packages, while ESPNU and SEC Network are both included in the “Just Right” package and above. The cheapest bundle is $35 per month, and the cheapest with ESPNU and SEC Network is $50 per month, but you get a free 7-day trial when you sign up, allowing you to watch a game or two at no cost.
How to Watch: You can watch ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and CBS on your computer via DirecTV Now’s website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the DirecTV Now app. For games on SEC Network (or any of the ESPN networks), you can watch on your computer via WatchESPN.com, or on a streaming device via the WatchESPN app. When asked to verify your cable provider, you’ll sign in with your DirecTV Now credentials.
Sling TV: ESPN and ESPN2 are included in the “Sling Orange” base bundle at $20 per month, while ESPNU and SEC Network are part of the “Sports Extra” add-on for another $5 per month. CBS is not available via this service. Like the above option, this comes with a free 7-day trial if you’re just trying to watch one particular game this week at no cost.
How to Watch: You can watch ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU on your computer via Sling TV’s website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the Sling TV app. For games on SEC Network (or any of the ESPN networks), you can watch on your computer via WatchESPN.com, or on a streaming device via the WatchESPN app. When asked to verify your cable provider, you’ll sign in with your Sling TV credentials.
CBS All Access: For the games that are being broadcast on CBS, your best option is likely going to be CBS All Access, which allows you to watch a live stream of your local CBS channel (most markets included) for $5.99 per month. It also comes with a free 7-day trial.
How to Watch: You can watch on your computer via CBS.com (under “Live TV” and “CBS (Local Station)”), or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the CBS app.
Following last year’s two-point heartbreaking loss to eventual champion North Carolina in the Elite Eight, Kentucky’s roster was gutted. Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo were all lottery picks. Isaiah Briscoe and Isaac Humphries also entered the draft as underclassmen, though they’re playing overseas now. Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins, who provided important veteran leadership, graduated.
All in all, the Wildcats lost 92.6 percent of their scoring, 76.6 percent of their rebounding and 94.7 percent of their assists from last year. As is always the case with a Calipari team, though, he’s not rebuilding. He’s reloading.
The Wildcats boast the nation’s No. 2 ranked freshmen class, which features six 5-star recruits and eight players overall. And with the exception of Jarred Vanderbilt (foot) and Jemarl Baker (knee), who are both recovering from injuries, all of them are expected to play an early-season role.
Ultimately, there’s no issue when it comes to the talent. Kevin Knox, Hamidou Diallo, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, P.J. Washington and Vanderbilt are all projected first-round picks, while Quade Green, Nick Richards and Gabriel could all be included in that conversation.
The concern is a lack of experience. While Calipari is used to playing a lot of true freshmen, he has typically had an uperclassman or two to help provide leadership. But this is a young team even by Kentucky standards, as sophomore Wenyen Gabriel, who logged 17.7 minutes per game but was used sparingly in the postseason, is the most experienced player on this year’s squad.
Calipari didn’t sugercoat his early-season assessment of his baby ‘Cats:
We’re going to have trouble early in the year. I don’t care, you guys can all say, ‘oh, he’s just saying this.’ No, I’m prepared for it. Now I’m going to be about these kids and I’m going to be focused on how do I get individuals better because my belief. Until individual players get it, your team can never get better.
I got to get Hami playing the right way. I got to get PJ playing the right way. I got to get Kevin Knox, Nick, we got to get them playing the way they got to play for themselves and for us.
These Wildcats may be young and unproven. But with length and athleticism scattered all over the court, a trio of guards–Diallo, Green and Gilgeous-Alexander–that excel at getting to the hoop and an expected up-tempo style of play, they are going to be extremely fun to watch.