At the beginning of the season, the Kentucky Wildcats were ranked No. 1 or 2 in most preseason polls. This was largely due to the fact that the Wildcats enrolled a recruiting class that featured four five-star prospects to go along with four experienced players in Nick Richards, Quade Green, PJ Washington and Reid Travis, all of whom were former five-star prospects.
Everything looked good on pape. UK had a good roster that was balanced, good shooters, and good defense as well. That has historically been a great sign for teams coached by John Calipari in the one-and-done era, but things haven’t lived up to the hype so far.
In their first game of the season against the Duke Blue Devils, Kentucky was humbled in a 34-point loss. Though it is true that the Wildcats won their next seven games, it should also be noted that all seven were home games against merely inferior opponents, as five of the teams were ranked lower than 165th respectively by KenPom.
What that meant for Kentucky was that Saturday was going to be this team’s first test away from home in addition to being against a top-60 team. The Wildcats went on to lose the game 84-83 in overtime, which means they’re now 0-2 away from Rupp Arena and 0-2 against top-60 opponents and without a single win over an at-large opponent.
That means that they are not deserving to be in the top 25, and that’s the case in Gary Parrish’s latest CBS Sports Top 25 And 1.
However, Parrish made sure to note that counting UK out this soon would be a mistake, at least if history is any indicator.
As I wrote Saturday, history suggests John Calipari will eventually get this team right considering UK has lost multiple games before Dec. 9 just three times in the past nine years, and two of those seasons (2011, 2014) still culminated with trips to the Final Four. The one that didn’t (2013) was derailed only when the best player (Nerlens Noel) suffered a season-ending injury. So, longterm, bet against UK at your own risk. That said, the Top 25 And 1 is not a projection; it’s a daily ranking of teams -- and Kentucky, simply put, doesn’t belong right now.
There’s still plenty of season left. As painful as Saturday was, counting any team out right now is unwise, especially one that has as much talent as Kentucky.
But there’s no question that things need to change in a hurry if Kentucky is going to survive a challenging stretch upcoming that includes games vs. North Carolina, Louisville and Alabama, all of which are away from Rupp.