Olivier Sarr’s immediate eligibility is a game-changer for the Kentucky basketball program, giving the Wildcats a veteran anchor in the frontcourt to match their star power on the perimeter with BJ Boston and Terrence Clarke.
And now, the preseason rankings are beginning to reflect that.
After originally coming in ranked anywhere from No. 12 (ESPN) to No. 24 (Stadium) prior to the Sarr news, Kentucky is now considered a consensus top-ten team in the preseason rankings.
While many major outlets are still drafting up their official updates, Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports already moved the Wildcats up to No. 6 in his preseason poll.
Here is Rothstein’s latest top ten:
The most pessimistic of the bunch prior to Sarr’s eligibility ruling, Jeff Goodman, moved Kentucky up 14 spots to No. 10 overall.
Here’s Goodman’s updated top ten:
“I think it’s a season determining waiver for Kentucky,” Goodman told KSR this summer. “With [Sarr], yeah, I think they’re a Final Four team. … Once he becomes eligible, he fills a huge, huge, huge hole for Kentucky. He means more to any team in the top 50 than anybody else, and it’s not even close.”
Dick Vitale also tweeted that he is moving Kentucky into the top five of his, listing the Cats at No. 5 overall.
Ahead of UK? Gonzaga (1), Villanova (2), Baylor (3), and Virginia (4).
My new TOP 5 -1 GONZAGA 2 VILLANOVA 3 BAYLOR 4 VIRGINIA 5 KENTUCKY !
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) October 22, 2020
ESPN’s Jeff Borzello is currently in the process of updating his official rankings, but he did hint at a jump into the top five for UK Wednesday evening.
“With Sarr and Toppin officially in the fold, Kentucky will likely move into the top five of ESPN’s preseason rankings,” Borzello wrote. “The Wildcats were No. 12 in August’s update.”
While it’s apparent most national analysts are buying into Kentucky being an upper-tier team in college basketball this season, those within the UK program are confident this is a legitimate title contender.
“I think we’ve had special teams, really good teams in my six years here,” UK assistant coach Joel Justus said. “When you have special teams, there’s a little bit of a different buzz in the gym. We have that right now.”
The college basketball season is set to tip off on November 25.