Kentucky sliding in "Way-Too-Early" preseason rankings following NBA Draft deadline

On3 imageby:Zack Geoghegan06/02/23


Photo by Jeff Moreland | Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The dust has mostly settled since the NBA Draft withdrawal deadline passed us by the moment the calendar turned over to June. Oscar Tshiebwe and Chris Livingston are off to the next level, while Antonio Reeves is coming back to college, but not necessarily to Kentucky. The Wildcats entered the week with only seven rotational players for the 2023-24 season and will end the week with… still just seven rotational players — five freshmen and two inexperienced sophomores.

With the withdrawal deadline in the rearview, several programs nationwide either bolstered or worsened their rosters for the upcoming season. For example, Purdue (Zach Edey) and San Diego State (Lamont Butler and Jaedon LeDee) greatly improved their teams with the return of key players from last season. The likes of Alabama (Charles Bediako) and Marquette (Olivier-Maxence Prosper) were not so lucky though, with critical pieces from last season staying in the NBA Draft pool.

As a result, the landscape of college basketball has seen a massive shakeup over the last few days. While we’re still several months away from the start of the ’23-24 season (Kentucky is actually just six weeks away from playing against international competition in Canada), a handful of “Way-Too-Early” preseason rankings have been updated across the last 36 hours.

Kentucky is one of a few schools experiencing a huge slide in the predictions.

On Friday morning, ESPN’s Jeff Borzello unveiled his latest “Way-Too-Early” preseason rankings for this coming season. After having the Wildcats ranked No. 11 in the previous update, he dropped UK all the way down to No. 24.

As of June 1, Kentucky has only seven scholarship players on its roster: five freshmen — talented ones, certainly, but still freshmen — and two sophomores who combined to average 4.8 points per game. Oscar Tshiebwe, Cason Wallace, Jacob Toppin and Chris Livingston all went pro, and another four players hit the portal. The wild card is Antonio Reeves, who withdrew from the NBA draft — but rumors have been swirling for weeks about him potentially transferring.

Jeff Borzello, ESPN

Additionally, on Thursday, Andy Katz released his Power 36 rankings on the NCAA’s official website following the withdrawal deadline. Like Borzello, Katz is down on the Wildcats’ offseason thus far, modestly slotting Kentucky at No. 18.

Kentucky: The Wildcats have the top recruiting class in the country led by Justin Edwards, Aaron Bradshaw and DJ Wagner. But the lack of veterans will haunt this team and probably prevent the Wildcats from winning a title. 

Andy Katz, NCAA

The vibes are certainly down for UK right now. Luckily for head coach John Calipari, there is still plenty of offseason left to fill out this youthful roster. But with the team heading to Canada in mid-July and a limited number of players currently in the fold, there is work that needs to be done.

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