The Kentucky Wildcats are entering the 2023-24 season at No. 16 overall in the AP Top 25 and Coaches polls. For what is the lowest ranking a John Calipari team has had since his time in Lexington, it appears he finally has a roster similar to the ones he had some much success with during the first five years of his tenure.
Despite that fact, in the era of the transfer portal, media and fans across the country are expecting veteran teams to win out over young, elite athletes who ooze NBA potential. While that might be acceptable, this Calipari team does still have a lot to prove.
That is also the case for Matt Norlander’s top-100 teams in college basketball this season. The writer for CBS Sports released his list earlier this week, and the Cats came in ranked at No. 21 overall.
Here is what he had to say about his thoughts on ranking UK where he did;
“I’m leaning into top-three-in-the-SEC for UK. John Calipari continues to run this program under immense pressure. The fans won’t accept “hey, they’re kinda good!” Kentucky hasn’t had a top-30 defense the past four seasons; it was 68th at KenPom a year ago. Without one-time NPOY Oscar Tshiebwe and elite ballhawk Cason Wallace, who steps up? The return of Antonio Reeves (14.4 ppg) was massive. Kentucky also was fortunate to land Tre Mitchell after he left WVU following Bob Huggins’ ouster. Then there’s the young’uns. The best of them is Justin Edwards, a small forward who should be in the mix as a top-five pick. D.J. Wagner will run the offense; he’s been a well-publicized talent for three years at this point.”
Norlander continued with this:
“Robert Dillingham (lead guard) and Reed Sheppard (shooting guard) also figure to get good burn. Injuries in the frontcourt are what keep me from moving UK higher. Aaron Bradshaw is nursing a foot issue, while Croatian center Zvonimir Ivisic is still going through the NCAA clearinghouse process (and some type of injury, it seems). Seems there’s a medley of ways this season could go for Kentucky. Calipari has a roster that, at its most fitting, is a Final Four threat. On the other hand, with so many unproven pieces and considering recent history, a flameout isn’t unthinkable”
After a win against Georgetown College in their opening exhibition game, this freshman-heavy team flashed their potential...but also struggled early to get going on both ends of the floor.
With a date against Kansas coming up in a few short weeks, it won't be long before the BBN finally gets to see what this team is made of.