While it’s nice being atop the top 25 polls, Kentucky is better served being No. 1 in a different kind of ranking.
If you follow college basketball, you should know about kenpom.com, which is very accurate at projecting who the best teams are, who would win a certain matchup, and how effectively teams are in a particular area (offense, defense, tempo, etc.).
For much of this season, Kentucky has been inside the top 10, and since the win over North Carolina, have climbed into the top five. After last week’s domination of Ole Miss, combined with an upset-filled week of hoops, the Wildcats are now No. 1 in the KenPom rankings.
A big reason why is Kentucky’s offensive explosion, which has them ranked No. 3 in adjusted offense, No. 8 in adjusted defense, and No. 11 in adjusted tempo (possessions per 40 minutes).
And while UK having two losses would seemingly keep them from being No. 1 over teams like Villanova (14-0), Kansas (12-1), and Baylor (13-0), Kentucky has looked far better against better competition, and even the Wildcats’ two losses are impressive.
They came against KenPom’s No. 1 adjusted offensive team in UCLA, as well as their No. 1 adjusted defensive team in Louisville (adjusted means points per 100 possessions scored/allowed).
Speaking of, Kentucky is one of just four teams that rank in the top 10 of adjusted offense and defense. Baylor, North Carolina and West Virginia are the three others.
Kentucky’s defense catches a lot of flack for the number of points they allow, but when you rank No. 11 in adjusted tempo and No. 7 in average possession time (14 seconds), that leads to many more chances to score for opponents. As long as Kentucky is still forcing a high amount of stops in those extra possessions while scoring at a high rate, it all works out.
That’s what these Wildcats are doing to most of their opponents, which is why they top this ranking. Here is the entire KenPom Top 25 as of Monday, Jan. 2:
4. West Virginia
8. North Carolina
18. Saint Mary's
20. Florida St.
25. Wichita St.