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Where Kentucky ranks in CBS and KenPom preseason rankings

Kentucky doesn’t even crack the top three.

Chris Humphrey - Sea of Blue

Every year, Matt Norlander of CBS Sports takes on the daunting task of ranking EVERY team in NCAA basketball. That’s 353 teams. So if you look at it that way, maybe Big Blue Nation should be pleased that the Kentucky Wildcats come in at No. 4.

Preseason rankings are, by no means, an exact science. But it is always interesting when a leading journalist has a different take than virtually every other major poll, where Kentucky appears at No. 1 or No. 2.

Norlander has nothing negative to say about the Wildcats, and in fact praises them with a comparison to the 2014-2015 team.

The Wildcats’ roster hasn’t been better set up to win a national championship since the 2014-15 team that went 38-1 and had Karl-Anthony Towns. This one has all the pieces that suggest John Calipari is banking on reaching the seventh Final Four of his career. Grad transfer Reid Travis will average a double-double. Sophomore P.J. Washington will Hulk-flex an average of four times per game. Freshman Keldon Johnson might be the best pro prospect. Freshman Tyler Herro could grow into the dagger man by January, and heck, maybe he averages 15 points. Sophomore Quade Green could be the one who holds it all together. There’s plenty more, too. This is a deep team and it shouldn’t take long to get it right.

Here’s a look at his top 10:

  1. Kansas Jayhawks
  2. Gonzaga Bulldogs
  3. Nevada Wolf Pack
  4. Kentucky Wildcats
  5. Virginia Cavaliers
  6. Duke Blue Devils
  7. Tennessee Volunteers
  8. North Carolina Tar Heels
  9. Villanova Wildcats
  10. Michigan State Spartans

While Norlander obviously thinks the Wildcats have a shot to win the national title, his comments on other teams seem to indicate that Kentucky should not be a favorite.

He had this to say about Nevada:

“If Nevada’s roster situation were applied to a school in a power conference coming off a Sweet 16, chances are high that team would be ranked No. 1 in the preseason. I only barely like Kansas and Gonzaga more than Nevada...”

It seems obvious from this statement that he thinks Kansas, Gonzaga, and Nevada are in a tier all to themselves. While I generally think preseason rankings are a waste of time and a tier system may be a more appropriate way to assess teams in general, I have a hard time believing that this Kentucky team should not be in that group.

The SEC representation in his list looked like this:

4. Kentucky Wildcats

7. Tennessee Volunteers

11. Auburn Tigers

18. LSU Tigers

21. Mississippi State Bulldogs

28. Florida Gators

34. Alabama Crimson Tide

53. Missouri Tigers

57. Vanderbilt Commodores

82. South Carolina Gamecocks

106. Arkansas Razorbacks

107. Georgia Bulldogs

126. Texas A&M Aggies

189. Ole Miss Rebels

Elsewhere, KenPom also recently released their 2018-2019 college basketball rankings, and Kentucky does crack the top-10, although a little lower than people may think:

  1. Kansas Jayhawks
  2. Duke Blue Devils
  3. North Carolina Tar Heels
  4. Virginia Cavaliers
  5. Villanova Wildcats
  6. Nevada Wolfpack
  7. Kentucky Wildcats
  8. Syracuse Orange
  9. Gonzaga Bulldogs
  10. West Virginia Mountaineers

The Wildcats come in at 7th in the country, trailing the likes of the Kansas Jayhawks, Duke Blue Devils, and Nevada Wolfpack, all of whom are projected to be in the top-5 when the AP preseason rankings release soon.

The KenPom rankings are based on stats such as adjusted offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions), adjusted defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions), adjusted tempo (number of possessions per 40 minutes), and strength of schedule.

The Wildcats rank 6th in the country in both adjusted offense and defense, which shouldn’t surprise many people. KenPom will update the stats throughout the season like always, in which I fully expect Kentucky to move up in offense and defense as well possessions per 40 minutes. And while the ranking is currently not up yet, I would not be shocked to see Kentucky having the hardest schedule in the country.

A total of five SEC schools cracked KenPom top-25, with Kentucky being the highest at 7, followed by the Tennessee Volunteers at 11, Auburn Tigers at 17, Florida Gators at 19, and Mississippi State Bulldogs at 23. You can view all 351 division one team rankings here.