The Kentucky Wildcats basketball team has yet to take the floor in a regular season game, but expectations are already sky-high for this talented group. In addition to being ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in nearly every preseason poll, many experts are now predicting that they will cut down the nets at the Final Four in April.
Mike Rutherford of SB Nation lists Kentucky winning the national championship as one of his “10 predictions for the 2018-2019 college basketball season.”
“My colleague Ricky O’Donnell isn’t quite as high on the Cats (see his preseason top 25 for further evidence), but to me, Kentucky checks more of the requisite boxes than any other team in the country. There isn’t a surefire top 10 pick on this roster, no, but there’s still an abundant amount of talent at every spot where you need an abundance of talent. Toss in the presence of grad transfer Reid Travis — a two-time First Team All-Pac 12 performer at Stanford — and you have the final piece of experience that all Calipari’s best UK teams have possessed.
Outside shooting and point guard play might be minor concerns through the season’s opening weeks, but they’ll alleviated, or at least adequately concealed, by the time March rolls around. Kentucky always peaks at the right time, and 2019 will be no different.”
He makes some good points, and a couple of his peers over at CBS Sports agree. Both Gary Parrish and Jerry Palm have selected the Wildcats as their national champion.
This is what Parrish has to say about Kentucky’s chances at bringing title No. 9 home from Minneapolis:
“Experienced contributors are not something John Calipari has usually had at Kentucky. In fact, only once in the previous nine years has the Hall of Fame coach started a season with at least three players who have already averaged at least nine points per game at the Division I level. That season was 2011-12 season. The result was a national championship. And that’s the main reason why I’m super-high on the Wildcats. Yes, they have five-star freshmen just like usual. But the presence of senior Reid Travis, and sophomores Quade Green and PJ Washington, is the reason I’m predicting Calipari to secure his second national title come April.”
While the Gonzaga Bulldogs got most of the love over at Sports Illustrated, writer Dan Greene likes Kentucky’s odds.
“Kentucky. Coach K may have brought this year’s most NBA-buzzworthy freshman class to Durham, but what John Calipari has in Lexington is a team that could win it all on this level. It’s a blend of very talented freshmen (three of the consensus top 15, plus two more in the top 35), last year’s very talented freshmen who are now sophomores (most notably forward PJ Washington), and the rare impact veteran (forward Reid Travis, a grad transfer from Stanford and two-time All-Pac-12 first-teamer). It’s the sort of mix that has previously resulted in an undefeated run to the Final Four (in 2015) and a national title (in 2012). That bodes well for the Wildcats’ chances at the latter.”
There are certainly more predictions to come in, and the college basketball picture will be much more clear a couple of weeks from now. But the Wildcats getting this kind of hype leading into the season is exactly what Big Blue Nation thrives on.
Win on Tuesday against Duke, and the internet will not be able to contain the excitement coming out of Lexington.