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College Basketball Top 25 Polls: Early Projection for 2017-18 season

The top six teams in this poll didn’t even make it to the Final Four this season.

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

We’re still a ways away from even knowing what the next version of Kentucky Basketball looks like.

The Sporting News just released their early top 25 projection for next season. Despite all of the offseason losses Kentucky will have, they have the Cats pegged No. 3 in this early projection.

3. Kentucky Wildcats

Expected back: Wenyen Gabriel, Isaac Humphries

Definitely gone: Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins

Decision time: Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox, Isaiah Briscoe, Bam Adebayo

Why they’re here: Monk and Fox are predicted as lottery locks, so they’re almost certainly gone. Adebayo is expected to leave, too, though his return would be great for the Wildcats. As always, there is a massive influx of talent on the way — UK’s class is ranked No. 1 in the country, with five five-star guys in the group. Rinse, repeat.

While there’s reason to hope for Kentucky being a top-five team next season, it’s really hard to see them starting as such unless an unexpected return happens. The way this breakdown is worded, it seems Sporting News may think Isaiah Briscoe is coming back, in which case a No. 3 ranking is very appropriate.

Problem is, that’s unlikely to happen as Briscoe is ready to be a pro, even if he doesn’t hear his name called in the NBA Draft. Without him or Bam Adebayo, who also could be mulling a return, I can’t see this Kentucky team being a preseason top-three team.

That is, unless they finish off their 2017 class with Mohamed Bamba and Kevin Knox. Those are two elite prospects who could make this a legitimate title contender next season, but again, that is also unlikely to happen.

Kentucky should be able to finish off this class with one of those guys, but it’s hard to see them landing both.

In the event Kentucky gets Bamba but loses Briscoe and Bam in addition to De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, I’d probably rank Kentucky more in the 5-7 range in the preseason.

Here is the entire poll:

25. Northwestern Wildcats

24. Oregon Ducks

23. Virginia Tech Hokies

22. Creighton Bluejays

21. Alabama Crimson Tide

20. Miami Hurricanes

19. Xavier Musketeers

18. Saint Mary’s Gaels

17. West Virginia Mountaineers

16. Butler Bulldogs

15. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

14. Cincinnati Bearcats

13. Minnesota Golden Gophers

12. Gonzaga Bulldogs

11. UCLA Bruins

10. Villanova Wildcats

9. Wichita State Shockers

8. Florida Gators

7. North Carolina Tar Heels

6. Louisville Cardinals

5. Michigan State Spartans

4. Kansas Jayhawks

3. Kentucky Wildcats

2. Duke Blue Devils

1. Arizona Wildcats