Transfer portal moves and NBA Draft decisions have caused a shakeup in next season’s projected hierarchy.
ESPN’s Jeff Borzello updated his “Way-Too-Early” Top 25 preseason rankings on Tuesday morning, where the Kentucky Wildcats cracked his new top five, jumping four spots to No. 3. Borzello points to the additions of transfer Illinois State Antonio Reeves along with incoming freshmen Cason Wallace (who has been turning heads on the All-Star circuit) and Chris Livingston as reasons for UK’s improvement. The return of Oscar Tshiebwe is also an obvious major factor for the top five ranking.
Kentucky wasn’t the only program to move around in the rankings. North Carolina was bumped from No. 5 to No. 1 with the return of four starters while Creighton slid up from No. 9 to No. 5 following the addition of South Dakota State transfer Baylor Scheierman. The likes of Arkansas (down from No. 1 to No. 6) and Kansas (down from No. 4 to No. 8) took minor dips following the departure of key veterans. Then you have a handful of schools that saw significant leaps: Auburn (up five spots to No. 11), Texas (up 10 spots to No. 12), TCU (unranked to No. 13), and Indiana (up five spots to No. 15).
Here’s what ESPN’s Jeff Borzello had to say about the ‘Cats.
It has been an eventful offseason for John Calipari’s program. On the plus side, consensus national player of the year Oscar Tshiebwe opted to come back to Lexington for another season. But there also have been several departures. Kellan Grady and Davion Mintz are out of eligibility, and TyTy Washington Jr. is going pro, while Keion Brooks Jr., Dontaie Allen and Bryce Hopkins all entered the transfer portal.
Then there’s the Shaedon Sharpe situation. Sharpe appears likely to go to the NBA without playing a minute for the Wildcats. But there will still be plenty of talent for Calipari. Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston are five-star recruits, while Illinois State transfer Antonio Reeves was one of the best scorers in the portal. A breakout season also could be coming for Jacob Toppin, who brings a different dimension in terms of physical skills to the frontcourt than Brooks did.
Projected starting lineup:
Sahvir Wheeler (10.1 PPG)Jeff Borzello, ESPN
Cason Wallace (No. 20 in ESPN 100)
Antonio Reeves (20.1 PPG at Illinois State)
Chris Livingston (No. 12 in ESPN 100)
Oscar Tshiebwe (17.4 PPG)
ESPN’s “Way-Too-Early” Top 25
- North Carolina
- Miami (FL)
- Saint Louis
Dropped out: Illinois Fighting Illini (No. 17), Oregon Ducks (No. 19), Purdue Boilermakers (No. 23), Texas Tech Red Raiders (No. 24)
Next in line:
- Texas Tech
- San Diego State
- Ohio State