The Kentucky Wildcats will have their first exhibition game on Sunday night as the 2022-23 season is getting set to tip off.
As we enter the season, the Cats are being viewed as one of the best teams in the country and a national title favorite.
On Thursday, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, Myron Medcalf, Jeff Borzello, and John Gasaway put together an SEC conference preview.
The group not only named Kentucky their favorite to win the SEC, but they view the Cats as a favorite to cut down the nets.
“If I had to bet a mortgage payment today, without seeing a minute of any game, Kentucky would be my pick for the national championship,” Lunardi wrote. “The Wildcats have the Player of the Year favorite along with other proven veterans. They also have the usual immediate contributors coming in (but not too many so as to require a lengthy acclimation period). And, of course, they have the “chip on their shoulder” factor based on last season’s ignominious NCAA tournament exit.”
Borzello is also very high on Kentucky and believes they are a legit Final Four contender.
“I think the Wildcats will be in the Final Four and national championship conversation come March — although they were also in that mix last season, before some late-season struggles and ultimately, of course, the shocking upset at the hands of the Peacocks,” Borzello said. “But Tshiebwe is a game-changer on the interior and Wheeler is one of the best point guards in the country. Above all, I think Toppin’s performance will be key. He was a standout on the team’s preseason trip to the Bahamas, with a mix of length, explosiveness, and inside-outside scoring ability unmatched by anyone else on the roster. If he hits his potential.”
As for Medcalf and Gasaway, they are both high on the Cats but want to see how well this team can shoot from three.
“But I’m still concerned about their 3-point shooting,” said Medcalf. “Kentucky hasn’t hit more than 36% of its 3-pointers since 2016. Three of the past four national champions all topped 39%. Does Kentucky have the shooters to win it all? We’ll find out.”
“Calipari’s incoming transfers, Fredrick and Reeves, are expected to help there, and they had better — returning Wildcats made just 20 3s last year,” Gasaway added.
ESPN is not the only national media that is expecting a big year from the Cats this season.
CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander revealed his top 101 teams in college basketball on Thursday. Norlander has Kentucky at No. 2 overall behind only North Carolina. He also picked the Cats to win the SEC.
“This is Kentucky, so you know the freshman talent is worth watching. The biggest name is Cason Wallace, who will start at the 2. Chris Livingston is another newbie, and he’s the favorite to start at small forward. If that happens, and Daimion Collins is the sixth man, UK might have the best — and certainly most athletic — first guy off the bench in the country. Expect a team that defends with a variety of looks and scores in spurts. The Wildcats’ No. 4 ranking in the preseason AP Top 25 marks UK’s 940th week out of 1,241 weeks since the poll began in 1949. Kentucky has more appearances than any other school; UNC is second, followed by Duke, Kansas, and UCLA.”
You can check out Norlander’s entire preseason rankings here.