Three players expected to be among the very best freshmen in the country — Skal Labissiere, Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe — are all on Kentucky's roster this season, and they'll get to go head to head with many of the nation's other top newcomers during the 2015-16 campaign.
UK's schedule includes 10 top-25 recruits from the 2015 class and four freshmen projected as top-15 NBA picks by DraftExpress.com. Many of those players will play major roles for their respective teams this season.
Nov. 17: Duke
Luke Kennard looked at one point like a near-lock to become a Kentucky Wildcat. The shooting guard from Ohio grew up rooting for UK, but he opted to join Mike Krzyzewski in Durham instead. He's expected to be an important part of Duke's offense this season as the team's go-to outside-shooting threat.
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Three players in Duke's class were ranked higher than Kennard as recruits: Point guard Derryck Thornton, post player Chase Jeter and small forward Brandon Ingram, who already is projected as a top-five NBA pick.
Dec. 19: Ohio State
JaQuan Lyle once visited Big Blue Madness as a recruit, later committed to Louisville and ultimately signed with Oregon and enrolled at that school last season. He never played for the Ducks because of an NCAA problem, and now he's entering his freshman season at OSU. Lyle has battled with fellow freshman A.J. Harris for the Buckeyes' starting point guard spot.
Dec. 26: Louisville
Donovan Mitchell, a super-athletic guard from Connecticut, was the most valuable player of this year's Derby Festival Classic, and he won the slam-dunk contest at that all-star event. He has the potential to be one of the best guards ever recruited by Rick Pitino, and he'll surely be a thorn in UK's side for the next few years.
Jan. 5, March 5: Louisiana State
Ben Simmons is projected by ESPN as the No. 1 overall pick in next year's NBA Draft, and he was voted by the media as the SEC preseason player of the year. Throw in the comparisons by reputable basketball observers to Magic Johnson and LeBron James, and it's clear that the do-it-all forward from Australia has a lot to live up to this season.
Five-star shooting guard Antonio Blakeney, who was recruited by UK and once committed to Louisville, also will be a major player for the Tigers.
Jan. 12: Mississippi State
Malik Newman was another player who appeared headed to Kentucky at various times during the recruiting process, but he chose to play for his father's alma mater (and for new head coach Ben Howland). Newman was one of the best offensive players in high school basketball last season and is likely to contend for SEC scoring honors.
Jan. 30: Kansas
Cheick Diallo was arguably the best post defender in the country as a high schooler, and he's expected to be a one-and-done lottery pick at Kansas. The 6-foot-9 native of Mali was ranked by 247Sports as a top-five recruit in the class of 2015. As of press time, he had not been cleared to play by the NCAA, although KU Coach Bill Self has expressed optimism that he will be eligible this season.
Onetime UK recruiting target Carlton Bragg — another McDonald's All-American — also has received praise from those who have watched the Jayhawks' preseason practices.
Feb. 13: South Carolina
P.J. Dozier isn't going to wow basketball fans with highlight-reel dunks, but he has a smooth skill set and is capable of playing several roles. At 6-6, the McDonald's All-American has the ability and vision to play point guard, and he's dangerous playing off the ball as well. Dozier's father and uncle played basketball for South Carolina in the 1980s.