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Kentucky Basketball: New ESPN Preseason Top 25 Poll has Wildcats in top five

Marvin Bagley pushes Duke to the top, as expected

State Farm Champions Classic Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

ESPN has released their Way-Too-Early Top 25 rankings, and Kentucky comes in at #5.

As expected, Duke vaulted to #1 with the addition of 2017 #1 prospect Marvin Bagley III. Finishing out the top five of the rankings are Arizona at #2, Kansas at #3, and Michigan State at #4.

ESPN’s Myron Medcalf makes some valid points on Kentucky. The two biggest questions regarding this team will be youth/inexperience and shooting. This will be Calipari’s youngest team and the freshmen will have to come together and mature.

We also need to see significant improvements from sophomores Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones if the Wildcats want to make a deep run in March.

Here is what Medcalf had to say about Kentucky:

But the class Calipari put together resembles his past assemblies. They're young, gifted and athletic. But he must overcome a pair of significant questions with this group. Can the Wildcats shoot? Calipari did not succeed in his pursuit of Cam Johnson, who picked North Carolina. Wenyen Gabriel is the team's top returning 3-point shooter. He shot 31.7 percent from beyond the arc in 2016-17. The other question for Kentucky: Who will lead this squad?

Calipari's best teams featured elite veterans. He had Willie Cauley-Stein on the 38-1 squad in 2014-15. He had Darius Miller on the 2012 national championship squad. Based on experience, Calipari's 2017-18 group looks like the team that failed to make the NCAA tournament the year after that title run. But this season doesn't come with an abundance of guarantees. Question marks decorate this entire top-25 list.

Yes, Kentucky lacks experience. But five of its incoming players are top-five prospects, part of the No. 2 recruiting class on ESPN.com.

As far as shooting goes, it is a valid concern, but if Gabriel’s shot is improved, while freshmen like Quade Green and Jemarl Baker can shoot at a decent clip, Kentucky may have enough threat from beyond the arc to cause defenses to game plan for it.

Jarred Vanderbilt has also seemed to be working on his outside jumper a lot this summer, so hopefully he is able to prove to be a decent perimeter option as well.

Kentucky fans will enjoy the fact that Louisville comes in directly one spot behind the Wildcats at #6.

Last year’s national champion North Carolina comes in at #13 in the rankings.

You can check out the rest of Medcalf’s rankings here.