It’s way too early to be projecting the best teams in college basketball next season, but in order to fill the time gap between major commitment announcements and draft decisions, some polls are coming out.
A recent NBC poll from Rob Dauster ranked Kentucky #5 in the country. Here is Dauster’s breakdown of next year’s Wildcats.
Who’s gone: De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo, Isaiah Briscoe, Derek Willis, Mychal Mulder, Dominique Hawkins
Who do they add: Hamidou Diallo, Quade Green, Kevin Knox,Nick Richards, P.J. Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jemarl Baker
Projected starting lineup: Quade Green, Hamidou Diallo, Kevin Knox, Jarred Vanderbilt, Nick Richards
Kentucky is a tough team to peg for next season. They should be really good defensively — Hamidou Diallo and Jarred Vanderbilt are elite defenders — and insanely athletic, but it’s going to be another year where we don’t know who shoots it for Kentucky. Adding Knox is big, and if they bring in Mo Bamba as well they’ll have an incredibly young but incredibly talented team.
Obviously, Kentucky’s potential for next year hinges on what Bamba, Diallo, and Cameron Johnson decide to do. Adding Bamba and Diallo or Johnson makes Kentucky arguably one of the best in the country next season, although it may not look like it at times as this EXTREMELY young group molds together.
Think about it, if Bamba and Diallo join this squad, Kentucky will have nine freshmen, a sophomore in Sacha Killeya-Jones who only played 96 minutes all season and sophomore Wenyen Gabriel, who averaged less than 18 minutes per game and didn’t play more than 10 minutes in a game during Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament run.
Honestly, I am expecting big improvements from Gabriel and SKJ next season. It’s typical to see drastic improvements between freshman and sophomore seasons and both those players are full of potential. Practicing against guys like PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt, Kevin Knox, Nick Richards, and (hopefully) Mohamed Bamba will only help them get better.
That being said, for a preseason poll, their ranking is debatable because fans should expect an adjustment period during the beginning of the season.
As for the teams above Kentucky, Dauster lists Michigan State, Arizona, North Carolina, and Kansas. Rounding out the top ten is Duke, Miami, Florida, Louisville, and Villanova.
As more draft decisions are made and more players (namely Bamba and Trevon Duval) make their decisions, programs will get a clearer look at how their team will come together.