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Kentucky in top 5 of new ESPN preseason ranking

The immediate waiver of Kentucky’s potential starting center Olivier Sarr gave them a significant boost in the rankings.

Mississippi State v Kentucky Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Although all five of Kentucky’s starters from a year ago declared for the NBA Draft, they’ll be primed to have another big year under John Calipari. They’ll do it on the back of the NCAA’s best incoming recruiting class.

They secured both Terrence Clarke and BJ Boston, two of the top-ten recruits in the nation. They’ll both be projected starts this season.

It’s not just those two that’ll be difference makers for this team but the returning Keion Brooks and transfer Olivier Sarr will also have a high impact on the team’s success. The Wildcats’ fifth starter is up for grabs between grad transfer Davion Mintz from those four is Devin Askew, a reclassified four-star recruit.

Along with Sarr’s eligibility, the Wildcats will also have Jacob Toppin, the brother of projected lottery pick Obi Toppin. Toppin isn’t projected to be a starter, but he will have an impact for this team, giving them something they lacked a season ago — depth.

That said, here’s what ESPN’s Jeff Borzello said on the Wildcats, who he ranked No. 5 in his updated preseason ranking.

Kentucky makes the biggest jump from the last summer update, and it’s a jump that has been somewhat expected. Wake Forest transfer Olivier Sarr, a third-team All-ACC selection last season, finally received a waiver to play immediately this season, and he should solve what might have been the Wildcats’ biggest weakness. He will slot in right away at center, providing an anchor on the interior and balance for what would have been a perimeter-heavy look. Kentucky has three five-star freshmen who are expected to start in the backcourt, with B.J. Boston poised to be the Wildcats’ go-to-guy offensively right away. Keion Brooks is the team’s lone returnee from last season. Due to the inexperience and all the newcomers, Kentucky might get off to a slow start — but in typical John Calipari fashion, the Wildcats should hit their stride at the right time. And with all the on-paper talent this roster possesses, we’re ranking Kentucky based on that late-season potential.

Baylor, Villanova, Gonzaga, and Virginia, in that order, were 1-4 on Borzello’s rankings. He goes all the way through 25, a list which contained just three other SEC teams. Kentucky was the only SEC team in the top 10.