Coach: Matthew Mitchell, 116-78 overall (86-49 in four seasons at UK; 30-29 in two years at Morehead State)
Last season: 25-9 overall (11-5, second place in SEC); SEC Tournament runner-up; lost in NCAA Tournament round of 32; final national rankings of No. 17 (Associated Press) and No. 16 (ESPN/USA Today)
What's at stake: Over the past two seasons, Kentucky has won 53 games, finished runner-up in the SEC regular season and tournament to traditional power Tennessee each season and won four NCAA Tournament games. It is the best stretch of women's basketball at UK since the days of Valerie Still. However, the star of the past two seasons, Victoria Dunlap, is gone. So we'll start to see this season if Mitchell built a good team or is building a program. The Kentucky coach will have 14 eligible players in 2011-12 with which to implement the kinetic, full-court style that has become UK's signature. Veteran guards A'dia Mathies, Amber Smith (back from the torn ACL that cost her all of last season) and long-range bomber Keyla Snowden are a good starting point. After signing a McDonald's All-American in Jennifer O'Neill a season ago, Mitchell added another this year in Indiana Miss Basketball Bria Goss (a 5-10 guard). The most scrutinized player on the UK roster figures to be Samarie Walker, a 6-1 forward who transferred to Kentucky from perennial power Connecticut at mid-season last year. If Walker, who is not eligible until the end of the fall semester, even comes close to duplicating Dunlap's production, UK Hoops will continue its upward arc.
Never miss a local story.