As the dust settles on college rosters now that the early-entry deadline has passed, all of the national outlets are releasing new preseason rankings for next season. Not surprisingly, most of them have Kentucky in the top five thanks to PJ Washington’s decision to return to school…except for one.
Here’s a roundup:
Aaron Torres: No. 2 Kentucky (Behind Gonzaga)
To me, this is by far Kentucky’s best team since 2015, and by far its most genuine threat to cut down the nets since then as well. If this team somehow adds Reid Travis to the fold they will be the unquestioned No. 1 going into the season, but with Washington back I don’t think they necessarily need to add him to complete for a title either. The Wildcats are one of the handful of favorites to win it all in 2019.
Myron Medcalf, ESPN: No. 3 Kentucky (Behind Kansas and Duke)
Kentucky’s talent pool is so deep, however, [the five departures] really doesn’t matter. The Wildcats remain this high even with so many departures. Why? Calipari added five-star big man E.J. Montgomery. He’ll join PJ Washington, the Wildcats’ leading rebounder, who withdrew from the draft.
Ashton Hagans, a five-star wing, is expected to reclassify to 2018. He would join ESPN’s second-ranked class, which already features standouts Immanuel Quickley and Keldon Johnson, both five-star perimeter players.
And follow the rumors about Stanford’s Reid Travis, a first-team All-Pac-12 selection who could join the Wildcats as a grad transfer. They’re young. They’re talented. That’s Kentucky.
Gary Parrish, CBS Sports: No. 4 Kentucky (Behind Kansas, Duke, and Tennessee)
Two of the top five scorers — specifically PJ Washington and Quade Green — are back from a team that advanced to the Sweet 16. Combine that with the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class (that will improve if/when five-star Class of 2019 guard Ashton Hagans reclassifies), and the Wildcats are worthy of yet another preseason top-five rating. And if Stanford transfer Travis Reid enrolls, as expected, watch out. A second national title is in play for John Calipari.
Jeff Eisenberg, The Dagger: No. 7 Kentucky (Behind Kansas, Duke, Gonzaga, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Nevada)
Kentucky will do what it always does after losing five prospects to the NBA draft. The Wildcats will reload behind another heralded freshman class. Look for heralded freshman Immanuel Quickley and sophomore Quade Green to split time at point guard and play alongside one another for long stretches too. High-motor slasher Keldon Johnson is likely to start right away at small forward. Kentucky’s frontcourt depth took a hit when Jarred Vanderbilt and Wenyen Gabriel opted to stay in the NBA draft, but P.J. Washington’s return softens that blow. He’ll likely start alongside either sophomore Nick Richards or freshman E.J. Montgomery, though Kentucky may yet add another promising option if Stanford grad transfer Reid Travis commits later this spring. The concern for Kentucky would be if the pieces in that frontcourt would fit together properly. Plenty of talent of course, but is there enough floor spacing or rim protection?
Clearly, Jeff Eisenberg isn’t giving Ashton Hagans enough credit.