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Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: Latest ESPN and KenPom projections have UK winning SEC

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ESPN and KenPom project UK to do well in SEC play, but Florida may keep pace with them.

NCAA Basketball: Florida at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

With conference play set to start shortly, we’re getting a good look at projections for how all the conference races will go. One thing’s clear: Kentucky is the overwhelming favorite to win the SEC.

ESPN’s Insider prediction has the conference shaping up like this:

  1. Kentucky
  2. Florida
  3. South Carolina
  4. Arkansas
  5. Texas A&M
  6. Georgia
  7. Alabama
  8. Vanderbilt
  9. Ole Miss
  10. Tennessee
  11. LSU
  12. Auburn
  13. Mississippi State
  14. Missouri

The great thing (for Kentucky) about ESPN’s projection is that they actually praise the conference. Here’s what Eamonn Brennan had to say:

Florida's offense has lifted the Gators, South Carolina might have the best first-shot defense in college hoops, Texas A&M has played well in close losses to good teams, Arkansas looks frisky, and the bottom of the conference is better across the board ... and Kentucky still looks like it's going to cruise to another SEC title.

If the whole conference is better, and Kentucky still wins the SEC with ease, it’d be a great sign for this team.

KenPom also has the Cats doing pretty well in conference play this year. They have Kentucky favored to win every single one of their conference games, but acknowledging the fact that doing that is highly unlikely, they project Kentucky’s conference record to be 15-3.

Having to play Texas A&M on the road won’t be easy, nor will playing Florida and South Carolina in either venue. And you have to account for a potential major upset here and there with teams like Arkansas on the schedule.

KenPom is also projecting a 13-5 record in SEC play with Florida, so they think this could turn into a tight race between the Cats and Gators for the regular-season crown.

All-in-all, the projections for the SEC haven’t changed much since the regular season started, especially when it comes to Kentucky’s standing. They’re still expected to win the conference pretty easily.