NCDA Region: Kentucky
2014-15 Record: 8-12
National Tournament Finish: Lost to CMU in Quarterfinals
2015-16 Captains: Brandon Engelman – C, Colin Hiatt – A, Blake Sears– A
Returning Varsity Players: 19
Players to Watch: #23 Brandon Engelman, # 37 Drew Greenawalt, #6 Ricardo Menchaca, #7 Zach Parise, and #9 Ben Underwood
When scanning the league looking for a team of intrigue, look no further than the Kentucky Wildcats. This group returns all but one varsity player from last season, so there is certainly reason to be optimistic in Lexington these days. With Brandon Engelman at the helm once again, UK should only improve upon their performance last season.
Kentucky did not have the best season in 2014=15, but they certainly finished strong. The Wildcats pulled off an upset in the first round of Nationals 2015, beating Maryland in an exciting back and forth game. They went on to lose to Central Michigan in the quarterfinals, but nonetheless, a statement was made.
Now looking forward, UK has nearly every player returning this season, with a group of second year players that I labelled as the best rookie class in the nation in 2014-15. There is more talent on the UK roster than most would like to admit. That is why this team should have far more success this season than any UK team has had since thier Final Four squad back in 2012-13.
When thinking of what non-Michigan teams would be labeled as the best in the NCDA, most people would start by naming some schools from the east coast such as James Madison, Towson, and Maryland. There is one school that wasn’t mentioned in that list and that is Kentucky. Keep in mind, UK is the last non-Michigan school to play in a national championship game, which they did back in 2012. Also, don’t forget that UK has made it to the “Elite Eight” in four consecutive seasons, which is no easy accomplishment. Especially when they needed to pull upsets in both 2014 and 2015 (CMU and UMD).
Admittedly, this is not even close to the same team we saw back in 2013 when UK hosted Nationals and held the lead over eventual National Champion GVSU part way through their Final Four match. With only three players remaining from that squad, the rebuilding project is nearly complete for UK.
A group that was young and inexperienced a year ago is now armed with much more experience and knowledge of the game. With players like Engelman and Drew Greenawalt leading the way, it’s safe to say this will be a year of high expectations for the Wildcats.