The Kentucky Wildcats had a strong finish to the regular season, winning at Ole Miss on Tuesday and holding off Florida on Saturday for Senior Day. Some other teams were not so lucky.
While the final poll standings do not have direct weight on postseason placement, it can be an indicator of how your team is trending in the final weeks of the season. To finish 4-1 in the last five games without starting center Reid Travis certainly has to feel good for this team heading into the SEC Tournament.
With Duke and Tennessee falling on Saturday, Kentucky saw a bump to No. 4 in the AP Top 25 Poll, followed by Duke, Michigan State, Texas Tech, Tennessee, LSU and Michigan to round out the top 10.
Gonzaga, Virginia and North Carolina remained the top three teams.
The Cats also moved up to No. 4 in the new Coaches Top 25 Poll. It’s mostly the same top 10 with the only differences being Texas Tech at 6, Michigan State at 7 and Houston at 10.
The Wildcats actually dropped to No. 5 in the NCAA’s NET rankings, whereas Houston jumped up from No. 7 to take the No. 4 spot. The Cats did rise to No. 4 on Sunday, but the Cougars’ win at Cincinnati gave them a big push.
Kentucky held at No. 4 in the ESPN Power Rankings, that includes only 16 teams each week. Jeff Borzello had this to say about the Wildcats:
They hit some snags in the road along the way, but the Wildcats are in position to earn a 1-seed -- similar to projects at the start of the season. John Calipari’s team still has its issues, but the emergence of PJ Washington as a go-to-guy and Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson as consistent scorers have helped. The key will be the return of Reid Travis; his physicality and experience down low are a big boost to the frontcourt.
Kentucky jumped both Duke and Tennessee to land at No. 4 in the CBS Sports Top 25 And 1 ranking. However, NBC Sports lists the Wildcats at No. 7, which is the only poll I found where they come in behind the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Andy Katz’ Power 36 has the Cats checking in at No. 6...behind LSU.
Sports Illustrated went all out this week, giving the pros and cons of each team in their Top 25, where Kentucky is ranked No. 4.
Pro: The Wildcats seem to have only gotten better as the season has gone on; on T-rank, they’ve been the fifth-best team since Feb. 1. They’re strong on both the offensive and defensive ends and do an excellent job of crashing the offensive boards and getting to the free throw line. Kentucky has the advantage of having multiple guys that can take over a game or be counted on for a clutch bucket—PJ Washington, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson and Reid Travis, who are all averaging 11 or more points—while not being over-reliant on any one person. Travis has missed the last five games but could be back for the postseason, and his absence was notably felt in the recent blowout loss to Tennessee.
Con: Kentucky is the nation’s fourth-youngest team, a fact that will only be magnified if Travis misses any more time, and its all-freshman backcourt is a little concerning given how important guard play is in March. The Wildcats’ turnover rate of 18.6% is also a bit high, and despite Ashton Hagans’s steal-generating proficiency, they don’t force a ton either, especially of late. Speaking of Hagans, the point guard has struggled with consistency and will need to be at his best if they want to make a deep run.
As far as bracketology goes, Kentucky fans should be thrilled with Joe Lunardi’s new projection. Not only is Kentucky on the 1 seed line, but they have jumped Duke and are currently projected to be the top seed in the South Region, which will take place in Louisville.
That path, if seeds hold, would include match-ups with Gardner-Webb, VCU, and a rematch with Kansas State from last year’s tournament before taking on Duke in the Elite Eight in what would essentially be a home game for Kentucky. Sign me up for that right now.
But don’t sleep on North Carolina stealing a 1 seed, though it could be favorable for Kentucky if both blue bloods are playing in Louisville, which is what USA Today’s projection has: