1. Who's Coming Back?
It's the biggest question every year thanks to the assembly line of elite talent that Calipari has signed during his seven years in Lexington. This has been an unusual season, however, in that the players most scouts and fans alike thought were a sure thing to make the jump to the NBA have not completely met those expectations while at least one player who may not have been considered ready for the pros has played himself into the discussion.
We know freshman guard Jamal Murray, considered by many to be selected in the 5-10 range of the lottery, is as close to a lock as you can possibly get. Even if Murray wanted to return, Calipari would likely insist that the "Blue Arrow" not put his future at risk. He's a prototype NBA shooting guard and is ready for the jump.
Next up is Tyler Ulis, the sophomore point guard who developed into one of college basketball's elite players this season. Size is -- and always will be -- an issue for the 5-foot-9 floor general, but he proved this season that he could compete against bigger athletes. He has climbed into the teens in many mock drafts, and there are now whispers that he could slip into the lottery. Big Blue Nation would love to see the fan favorite return for another year, but if Ulis can land a guaranteed contract by being selected in the first round, he can ensure his financial future. His tremendous 27-point effort against Indiana will likely be his swan song.
After those two, the water is a bit muddier. Freshman big man Skal Labissiere could clearly use another year of development at the college level, especially when it comes to adding muscle to his wiry frame, but here's the thing one always has to remember: there aren't many 7-footers walking the planet who can run and jump and shoot the ball like the young Haitian can. He's a rare commodity, regardless of his inconsistent season with UK. Labissiere is just scratching the surface on his basketball potential, and the hunch here is that someone is going to make him a first-round pick and hope for the best by Year 3.
Freshman guard Isaiah Briscoe is also rumored to be interested in testing the waters. He may put his name in the draft to see what kind of feedback he receives, but his poor perimeter and free-throw shooting as a 6-foot-3 guard will likely make it difficult for an NBA team to roll the dice on him this year.
2. Will There Be Any Surprise Departures?
Well, they wouldn't be surprises if we knew, would they? All kidding aside, BBN will ponder where some of the players with eligibility remaining fit into the equation after Calipari used part of his Indiana postgame presser to tease his latest batch of signees as possibly his best group to date.
The Catch 22 for Calipari is that he has elite guards De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk coming in next season who will almost certainly start at the 1 and 2. Where will Briscoe fit into the mix if he returns? Will it be as an undersized small forward again, which would mean another three-guard lineup and a tight rotation for what is expected to be a much-improved frontcourt? That's just two spots open for Derek Willis, Marcus Lee, Isaac Humphries, Tai Wynyard, Wenyen Gabriel, Edrice "Bam" Adebayo and Sacha Killeya-Jones. Dividing that playing time for a group of players all expecting to see quality minutes will not be easy, and it's doubtful Calipari would employ the "platoon" system again.
Junior Dominique Hawkins will likely be a valuable reserve at both the 1 and 2 spots, bringing a wealth of veteran leadership and the ability to be a defensive stopper to the table, but what looms for Charles Matthews, Mychal Mulder and EJ Floreal? Matthews appeared frustrated with his role at times this season, and Mulder, who signed out of the junior college ranks, only played 88 minutes as a junior. Advertised as a dangerous perimeter shooter at the juco level, he attempted only 11 3-pointers and made just two this season. It would feel unusual for a player who just transferred to do so again with only one year of eligibility remaining, but it's hard to envision Mulder playing a key role next season. Calipari has suggested Floreal, originally a walk-on, has the athletic ability to be a contributor in the future, but likely needs to develop other parts of his game to break into any kind of rotation.
3. What Does Wynyard Bring To The Table?
The biggest mystery of the 2015-16 season was what kind of player is Tai Wynyard? The native of New Zealand joined the program in December, a move that suggested the staff may want him to play in the second half of the season, especially given UK's lack of bulk and consistent production in the post. As more games slipped off the schedule, however, it became evident that Wynyard was headed for a redshirt season.
Very little was known about the 6-foot-10, 255-pound Kiwi prior to him signing with UK. He was the youngest player ever to make the New Zealand National Team at age 16 and he opened some eyes with an MVP performance in the FIBA World 3-on-3 Championships, but no one outside the Craft Center complex really knows what kind of player he is and how he fits into the mix for 2016-17. Will he be an impact guy or more of a developmental player?