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Jay Bilas ranks Kentucky Basketball 10th, says field ‘isn’t wide open’

Is Kentucky in that small group of teams that could really win it all?

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Even though Kentucky hasn’t looked great much this month, this still is a great year for a ‘good’ team to compete for a title.

That said, Kentucky is one of just a few teams who appear capable of making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. At least, Bilas seems to think these Wildcats are still among that small group of teams.

Jay Bilas has released his latest Bilas Index on ESPN Insider. In it, he says the field isn’t as wide open as everyone says it is.

The "field" isn't wide-open. Rather, overall, it is inconceivably weak. There are quite a few teams that can play well on a given day and win games. But the field of teams that can perform dependably at a high level is pretty small.

He also complains about this year’s bubble teams and this year’s mid-majors (except Gonzaga).

But more importantly, Bilas ranks Kentucky 10th in the nation, right behind the Duke Blue Devils.

Kentucky is averaging 88.8 points per game this season, fourth-most in the nation and on pace to be its highest average since its 1995-96 national title season, when it averaged 91.4. The Wildcats are 20-1 when scoring more than 80 points this season and 2-4 when scoring 80 or fewer.

The Wildcats average 24.2 transition points per game, second-most in the nation (Savannah State averages 29.6). Freshman Malik Monk is the SEC's leading scorer at 21.4 points per game, on pace to be the second-most by a Kentucky player in the past 20 seasons (Jodie Meeks averaged 23.7 in 2008-09) and the most by any freshman in Wildcats history.

Monk could become the first freshman to lead the SEC in scoring since LSU's Chris Jackson averaged 30.2 points per game in 1988-89. De'Aaron Fox is the only SEC player averaging at least 15 points and five assists per game this season. He could become the third Kentucky player to average those marks for a season, after John Wall did it in 2009-10 and Tyler Ulis did it in 2015-16.

He heaped praise on Kentucky’s offense, but it’s what he didn’t say that has them down at 10th.

When he says there’s a small field of teams that can really win it all, you have to wonder if Kentucky is one of them. They’re winning consistently, but “playing dependably at a high level” is a whole different issue. And with a few upset losses and multiple ugly wins in SEC play, they’re not exactly doing that.

Nonetheless, the Cats are still on a five-game win streak with a chance to show whether or not they’re really contenders with a game against No. 13 Florida on Saturday.