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Kentucky continues ascent in new top 25 rankings, NET & bracketology

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The Cats continue to rise up the college hoops landscape and into the elite tier of teams.

Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

In early December, Kentucky fell to No. 19 in the AP Poll following a heartbreaking loss to Seton Hall.

At that point, there was legitimate concern that Kentucky may fall out of the polls altogether after a brutal stretch of games against Louisville and North Carolina, not to mention a January stretch that featured three-straight top-25 opponents in Mississippi State, Kansas and at Auburn.

That was all part of what would become a nine-game stretch that has dramatically changed the outlook of the 2018-19 Kentucky Wildcats. They wound up going 5-0 against those ranked teams, three of which were away from Rupp Arena. It also included three-straight wins against the likes of Auburn, Mississippi State and Kansas.

Following a win over previously No. 9-ranked Kansas this past Saturday, Kentucky is checking in at No. 7 in the latest AP Poll. Two of Kentucky’s best wins this season look even better now, as North Carolina is up to No. 9, while Louisville is at No. 15.

Unfortunately, Auburn has dropped out of the polls following their three-game skid. Mississippi State is barely hanging in at No. 22.

Kentucky did make a slightly bigger climb in the Coaches Poll, checking in at No. 6.

AP Top 25 Poll

  1. Tennessee Volunteers
  2. Duke Blue Devils
  3. Virginia Cavaliers
  4. Gonzaga Bulldogs
  5. Michigan Wolverines
  6. Michigan State Spartans
  7. Kentucky Wildcats
  8. Nevada Wolf Pack
  9. North Carolina Tar Heels
  10. Marquette Golden Eagles
  11. Kansas Jayhawks
  12. Virginia Tech Hokies
  13. Houston Cougars
  14. Villanova Wildcats
  15. Louisville Cardinals
  16. Texas Tech Red Raiders
  17. Purdue Boilermakers
  18. Buffalo Bulls
  19. LSU Tigers
  20. Iowa State Cyclones
  21. Maryland Terrapins
  22. Mississippi State Bulldogs
  23. NC State Wolfpack
  24. Wisconsin Badgers
  25. Florida State Seminoles

Coaches Top 25 Poll

  1. Tennessee Volunteers
  2. Duke Blue Devils
  3. Virginia Cavaliers
  4. Gonzaga Bulldogs
  5. Michigan Wolverines
  6. Kentucky Wildcats
  7. Nevada Wolf Pack
  8. Michigan State Spartans
  9. Marquette Golden Eagles
  10. North Carolina Tar Heels
  11. Virginia Tech Hokies
  12. Kansas Jayhawks
  13. Houston Cougars
  14. Villanova Wildcats
  15. Texas Tech Red Raiders
  16. Louisville Cardinals
  17. Buffalo Bulls
  18. Purdue Boilermakers
  19. LSU Tigers
  20. Iowa State Cyclones
  21. Mississippi State Bulldogs
  22. NC State Wolfpack
  23. Wisconsin Badgers
  24. Maryland Terrapins
  25. Iowa Hawkeyes

The latest round of bracketology also has Kentucky firmly in the NCAA Tournament as a 2 seed. NCAA.com has Kentucky as the 2 seed in the East Region with Virginia at No. 1.

If the higher seeds win every game, Kentucky would face Princeton, Syracuse and Houston to get to the Elite Eight. That’s a very favorable path, but Virginia may be the toughest out of this tournament if they keep up their torrid pace.

Elsewhere, CBS Sports has Kentucky as a 2 seed in the East Region with Michigan as the top seed.

A path of Vermont, Wisconsin and Virginia Tech looks a bit more challenging, but Michigan appears to be a more beatable 1 seed if they both make it to the Elite Eight. Heck, Louisville may upset them, setting up a Bluegrass showdown for a spot in the Final Four.

NCAA.com’s Power 36 ranking has Kentucky checking in at No. 5.

Sports Illustrated has Kentucky checking in at No. 6, and for the second-straight week, lists the Wildcats as a team on the rise:

Has the Kentucky everyone expected back in October finally arrived? The Wildcats are certainly looking the part after locking up Kansas at home for their sixth-straight win on Saturday and third-straight win over a top-25 team. Ashton Hagans continues to grow in his role as not just a defensive stopper but also a distributor, dishing out 22 assists across the three victories and continuing to lead the SEC in steal rate during conference play. Kentucky was able to take advantage of the Jayhawks’ lack of size inside, grabbing 17 offensive rebounds, blocking eight shots and holding Kansas to a dismal 14 of 40 inside the arc.

The latest NBC Sports Top 25 has Kentucky rising up to the No. 7 spot.

CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish has Kentucky checking in at No. 7.

The Wildcats’ six-game winning streak includes victories over Kansas, Mississippi State and Auburn. Kentucky is 7-3 vs. top-100 KenPom teams heading into Tuesday’s game with Vanderbilt.

ESPN’s latest power ranking (only 16 teams) now has the Cats at No. 9:

With Michigan State losing, does Kentucky take the new mantle as hottest team in the country? The Wildcats are really starting to figure it out, and John Calipari has clearly settled on his go-to lineup. In fact, Kentucky didn’t get a single bench point against Kansas on Saturday. Nick Richards did block five shots in nine minutes, but the Wildcats have clearly defined roles at this point.

The Wildcats did fall to the No. 8 spot in the latest NCAA NET rankings (were No. 7 as of early Monday morning). That means if the NCAA Tournament began today, Kentucky would be right on the line of being a 2 or 3 seed.

Speaking of NET, Kentucky now has wins over No. 9 North Carolina, at No. 12 Louisville, No. 16 Kansas, at No. 26 Auburn, and vs. No. 27 Mississippi State.

Overall, Kentucky is in a great spot with February almost here. As long as they win the games they’re supposed to win, they’ll be a 2 seed in the Big Dance. They can probably afford a slip up in a game like at Mississippi State, at Florida or at Ole Miss.

But to get to that 1 line, they probably need to win at least one game vs. Tennessee, who remains No. 1 in both polls.