The 2018-2019 college basketball season is officially over. The Virginia Cavaliers were crowned NCAA champions for the first time on Monday, and now everyone has a clean slate with a chance to win a title a year from now.
So of course, everyone is projecting what may happen next year. Although many announcements are in the queue about the NBA future of several current players, every major outlet has released an early top 25 for the 2019-2020 season.
The Kentucky Wildcats will have high expectations yet again, being ranked in the top 5 in nearly every major projection. The Wildcats are ranked at No. 2 by both Sports Illustrated and USA Today. Sports Illustrated had this to say about Kentucky:
The issue of heavy roster turnover is nothing new for the Wildcats, who are likely to lose PJ Washington, Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro to the draft and will graduate Reid Travis. The good news: Kentucky brings in readymade backcourt scorer Tyrese Maxey, athletic wing Kahlil Whitney and versatile forward Keion Brooks to replace them. Ashton Hagans should end up coming back to run the point. It’s impossible to know exactly what this team will look like in November, but Kentucky may not fall off much, if at all. The addition of grad transfer Nate Sestina adds crucial depth in the frontcourt.
The most common ranking for the Wildcats is No. 3, which is where they land on ESPN, NBC Sports, the Associated Press, 247Sports, and the Sporting News. However, Kevin Flaherty of 247Sports believes the sky is the limit if Tyler Herro returns to Kentucky for another year.
Ashton Hagans had moments this year where he looked like a future star, particularly defensively. And pairing him with Tyrese Maxey, the No. 2 combo guard in the 247Sports Composite, could allow the Wildcats to push for the best backcourt in college basketball. Kahlil Whitney, the top small forward and No. 7 overall player in the 247Sports Composite looks ready to step in for Keldon Johnson, while Keion Brooks has the versatility at 6-foot-7 to play several positions. That makes him an ideal fit next to a deep frontcourt group that should include Nick Richards, EJ Montgomery and now Bucknell graduate transfer Nate Sestina. If Tyler Herro elects to return to Lexington? Move these Wildcats up to No. 1.
Both WatchStadium.com and The Athletic rank the Wildcats at No. 4. Patrick Stevens of The Washington Post lists Kentucky at No. 5, whereas CBS Sports ranks the Wildcats No. 6, which is the lowest we have seen so far. However, Gary Parrish of CBS Sports acknowledges that the return of either Ashton Hagans or Tyler Herro could raise Kentucky’s stock.
John Calipari has wisely secured a heralded graduate-transfer for the second straight year (in the form of Nate Sestina). If Ashton Hagans and/or Tyler Herro decide to return for a sophomore season, the Wildcats will likely move into the top five of the Top 25 And 1.
There are two things that Kentucky basketball is never short on: great players and high expectations. The 2019-2020 campaign promises to be no different.