8. Kentucky (10-2)
John Calipari has assembled impressive talent in Lexington yet again, with Reed Sheppard in particular standing out for the Wildcats. The record looks great and the metrics are fine, though the resume isn’t as special as expected. Wins over Miami and Louisville don’t look as great as expected, and that home loss against UNC Wilmington continues to be a head scratcher, though that won’t stop Kentucky from being a contender.
The Wildcats were back from Christmas with Friday night action against Illinois, matching Antonio Reeves against his former team. Kentucky prevailed 95-70 with limited drama, with Reeves’ 27-point performance certainly leading the charge. Rob Dillingham had 16 points and 7 assists, D. J. Wagner scored 14 and the Wildcats did more than enough coming out of the holiday break.
Wins over the Illinois States of the world won’t push the needle for the Wildcats, who now begin SEC play with their only fantastic win coming over North Carolina. They’ve shown potential and have a great offense; we’ll just have to see how they fare against an SEC that’s been stronger in recent years. That journey begins at Florida on Saturday, which certainly isn’t the easiest start to conference play.