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Kentucky Wildcats in top 5 of early 2018-19 college basketball top 25 poll

The Kentucky Wildcats are primed to field one of the best teams in college basketball next season.

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

It’s never too early for a look at next college basketball season.

With this season coming to an end, fans are looking toward next season and in a recent poll released by the Sporting News, the Kentucky Wildcats figure to be among the best teams in the country next season.

TSN’s Ryan Fagan ranked the top 25 going into next season and he placed Kentucky third. For the most part in his top 25, he seems to be making these projections based on guys like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kevin Knox eventually entering the 2018 NBA Draft.

While they could surprise everyone and return, UK is still going to have a wealth of talent next season, one that’s capable of making it to the Final Four. But if someone like Knox returns, it’s safe to think UK will be in contention for the No. 1 ranking in the preseason polls.

Here’s what Fagan had to say about UK:

Expected back: Quade Green, Wenyen Gabriel, Nick Richards, Sacha Killeya-Jones

Decision time: Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo, Jarred Vanderbilt, P.J. Washington

Why they’re here: Depending on how draft decisions play out, Kentucky could actually have a plethora of “veterans” next season, a legitimately experienced team. Kentucky fans are holding out hope that Knox, SGA and Diallo could return, and while that is possible — all three loved the Kentucky experience — they’re likely to jump to the NBA and serious cash.

Vanderbilt and Washington could turn pro, too, but especially Vanderbilt could improve his stock with a sophomore year after injuries cut short his freshman year (only 14 games). The recruiting class is “only” ranked No. 6 right now, but includes a couple of 5-star kids (Keldon Johnson and Immanuel Quickly) and one 4-star recruit (Tyler Herro).

Kentucky’s recruiting class may not even be finished yet, with E.J. Montgomery, Ashton Hagans (if he reclassifies) and potentially Jordan Brown all in the mix to join Kentucky’s 2018 class.

More importantly though, Kentucky’s potential for next year rests upon the guys who may come back for another year. Kevin Knox, P.J. Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt, Wenyen Gabriel, Hamidou Diallo, and others have major decisions to make.

Bringing back some experienced players could make a huge difference in allowing Keldon Johnson, Immanuel Quickley, and Tyler Herro to not be thrust into spotlight roles.

If Kentucky loses several guys, they would probably take a tumble down this list although it is likely they get a few guys back and probably add at least one more player to the 2018 recruiting class.

Ahead of Kentucky is #2 Duke and #1 Kansas. Finishing off the top five are #4 Villanova and #5 Virginia.

Check out the full rankings here.