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Athlon names Kentucky No. 1 team heading into next season

Yet another loaded roster heading into the summer.

Auburn v Kentucky Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Pretty much every outlet has put out their early college basketball preseason polls, and there is little differentiation between most of them.

The Kentucky Wildcats have been ranked either No. 2 or No. 3 by almost everyone, and Michigan State has been the consensus top team in the country.

Athlon Sports sees things a bit differently.

Athlon Sports Top 10

  1. Kentucky Wildcats
  2. Michigan State Spartans
  3. Villanova Wildcats
  4. Duke Blue Devils
  5. Ohio State Buckeyes
  6. Louisville Cardinals
  7. North Carolina Tar Heels
  8. Seton Hall Pirates
  9. Gonzaga Bulldogs
  10. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Kyle Kensing of Athlon puts a lot of stock in Kentucky’s returning players, even though Michigan State also has a ton of talent coming back.

Buzz: Kentucky losing a raft of NBA-caliber players, only for John Calipari and his staff to replace them with more, is nothing new. An intriguing angle to Kentucky’s 2019-20 roster, however, is the veteran presence there to welcome the loaded freshman class.

EJ Montgomery’s surprise withdrawal from the draft pool sets the foundation. Nick Richards gives Kentucky a potentially elite rim protector, which will work nicely in conjunction with Ashton Hagans’ tenacious, on-ball defense. The addition of Bucknell transfer Nate Sestina (15.8 points, 8.5 rebounds per game in 2018-19) provides another veteran presence, who should immediately mesh in the same vein as Reid Travis a season ago. Now combine that with the influx of talent — in particular, 5-star prospects Kelon Brooks, Tyrese Maxey and Kahlil Whitney — and Kentucky has the formula for a Final Four run.

Without even mentioning Johnny Juzang, who is a top 35 recruit, and the back court depth that Immanuel Quickley brings, Kensing believes Kentucky should be the top program in the country. And perhaps with less youth to contend with, the early season development could be accelerated and this team could be special early in SEC play.

With all of the players arriving in Lexington this week, Big Blue Nation is buzzing in preparation for what could be another special season. October will be here before you know it.

Check out Athlon’s entire top 25 list here.