AP Rank: 8
To many of the Kentucky fans' dismay, John Calipari’s Wildcats currently find themselves ranked 8th in the country -- a feat that is rather surprising not because of the lack of talent on the roster, but because of the lingering question in the offseason discussing how can Calipari blend a freshman-heavy team in a transfer portal, experience-equals-wins era?
To my surprise, the Wildcats have looked really good this season. Like, really good.
Anchored by veterans Antiono Reeves (18.3 Pts, 4.2 Reb, 1.5 Ast) and Tre Mitchell (13.2 Pts, 6.7 Reb, 3.5 Ast) alongside freshman Rob Dillingham, Reed Sheppard, D.J. Wagner, Justin Edwards and sophomore Adou Thiero, the upside of this group is sky-high.
To make matters even better, Calipari received a boost in depth at the frontcourt as 7’1 Aaron Bradshaw made his season debut just four games ago following a foot injury this past summer and 6’11 Ugonna Onyenso made his return just two games ago following a foot injury as well.
Even amidst the talent on this roster, Kentucky still sports middling metrics compared to their AP Ranking with a KenPom ranking of 19 and a NET ranking of 27. Why is this so?
Addressing the elephant in the room, the Wildcats suffered a Quadrant 3 loss to a sneaky-talented UNC Wilmington squad in early December.
Although D.J. Wager was sidelined during that game due to an ankle injury suffered against Miami, the metrics will not take that into account -- but the committee might.
Additionally, their best win (as of now) is against North Carolina, where they won 87-83 and the shine of their Miami (FL) has worn off a bit since they beat them in late November.
An okay -- but not great -- non-conference strength of schedule dampers their metrics a bit, but they have won by solid margins and sneaking by an at-large worthy St. Joe’s squad in overtime doesn’t look that bad on paper as it did a month ago.
Although Kentucky’s metrics will need some time to catch up, the vast upside of this Wildcats group makes for a fun couple of months ahead for BBN faithful.