It’s not first. It isn’t second either.
After the rosters were finalized with last week’s draft decisions, ESPN updated their way-too-early Top 25. Duke is standing tall at #1 with the Cats right behind the defending National Champs, Villanova. Here’s what they say about #3 Kentucky.
Don’t shed too many tears for Calipari. As crazy good as Duke’s incoming class is — and as funny as the whole Internet beef between Kentucky and Blue Devils has been — it’s worth noting, lest we forget, that ESPN’s recruiting analysts still think Kentucky’s class is better. (Duke ranks No. 2.) Which is incredibly and entirely unsurprising. Calipari, even without Bolden, still has four top-20 players of his own, and five five-star guys overall, arriving this summer. Forward Bam Adebayo and guards De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk all look like immediate all-SEC-level players.
The difference between Duke’s consensus No. 1 spot and UK lies in the comparison between what the Blue Devils kept and what Kentucky lost: Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis (arguably the nation’s one-two backcourt), Alex Poythress and, most surprisingly, Marcus Lee, who took his name out of the draft on May 25 only to immediately announce his intentions to transfer. Fortunately, Kentucky tends to be pretty good at this whole “replacing NBA draft picks with more NBA draft picks” thing, in case you hadn’t heard.
UK has three non-conference opponents in the Top 10, with a few others in their Top 20. Kansas is #4, North Carolina is #6 Michigan State is #10, Louisville is #13 and UCLA is #17