After Reid Travis’ transfer from Stanford padded an already star-studded mix of incoming freshmen and returners to the Kentucky men’s basketball program, two prominent preseason polls shot the Cats up to the No. 1 ranking. But a couple of other forecasters are less impressed.
Kentucky ranks 22nd in ESPN’s College Basketball Power Index, which was updated July 29. Kansas ranked No. 1.
On Monday, national college basketball writer and radio/podcast host Jon Rothstein placed Kentucky as the third-best Southeastern Conference team behind Tennessee and Auburn in a post of his “offseason” SEC power rankings on Twitter. He later defended them in a Twitter reply to Kentucky Sports Radio’s Matt Jones.
“Absurd? No. Fair and objective? Yes. Tennessee returns 88.9% of its scoring. Auburn returns five of its top seven scorers, while adding Samir Doughty, Danjel Purifoy, and Austin Wiley,” Rothstein tweeted.
The most optimistic forecasts this summer, ESPN’s “Way-too-Early” top 25 by Myron Medcalf and CBSSports.com’s similarly themed top 25 by Gary Parrish, put UK at No. 1 ahead of Kansas.
ESPN’s BPI, which has UK at No. 22, is said to factor in the quantity and quality of experience on the returning roster in addition to freshman recruiting rankings and coaching success. Kentucky lost seven players, but returns Quade Green and PJ Washington. Duke, which lost its entire starting lineup but slightly edged UK for No. 1 in the recruiting rankings is No. 9 in the BPI.
The BPI’s top four are Kansas, Gonzaga, Tennessee and Marquette. ESPN’s Jeff Borzello wrote in a breakdown of the index that since 2007 only two teams (both UConn) have won the national title and been ranked outside the BPI top four in October.
Kentucky begins play with four exhibition games in the Bahamas this week, starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday. All games will be broadcast on the SEC Network.