Kentucky basketball: Wildcats snag No. 4 spot in first AP preseason poll

Kentucky Wildcats guard Sahvir Wheeler (Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports)
Kentucky Wildcats guard Sahvir Wheeler (Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports) /

With the 2022-23 college basketball season tipping off three weeks from today the Kentucky basketball team finds themselves in a familiar spot ranked No. 4 in the first Associated Press poll of the season.

Big Blue Nation is hoping to put the ghosts of recent early season-ending losses in the past. Aspirations are high once again kicking off the season and for the 11th time in coach John Calipari’s 14 seasons at the UK helm his squad begins the year ranked in the top five and 13 of the 14 years ranked in the top 10.

Of Southeastern Conference schools Kentucky leads the way as the highest-ranked of the five in the top 25. Those other schools include Arkansas (10), Tennessee (11),  Auburn (15), and Alabama (20).

Heading up the poll at No. 1 is North Carolina, followed by Gonzaga, Houston, and Kentucky with Baylor and Kansas tied for the fifth spot. The Cats did receive two first-place votes.

Among the other top-25 teams the Cats face include Gonzaga, Kansas, UCLA, and Michigan. That means Kentucky basketball has 10 total matchups in 2022-23 against top-25 opponents being that they play Arkansas and Tennessee twice.

Kentucky, who ranks second in all-time wins, will match up with some of the winningest programs with Kansas being number one, UCLA (No. 7), Arkansas (No. 29), Gonzaga (No. 30), Alabama (No 33),  and Tennessee (No. 38)

Several other preseason rankings have begun trickling out and all agree Kentucky basketball is in the top five of the class this season including being ranked No. 1 by, No. 3 by Blue Ribbon magazine, No. 4 by ESPN,  No. 4 by CBS Sports and No. 4 by Dick Vitale.

Calipari and his team got things started last Friday with Big Blue Madness and will take the Blue-White game on the road to Pikeville on Oct. 22. A pair of exhibition games follow that against Missouri Western State and Kentucky State on Oct. 30 and Nov. 3, respectively.

Kentucky will tip of the regular season on Monday, November 7 when Howard comes to Rupp Arena. Duquesne will come in that Friday night before Kentucky tangles with Michigan State in the Champions Classic in Indianapolis on November 15. The Spartans rank No. 23 in all-time wins.

The Wildcats return the National Player of the Year in Oscar Tshiebwe, a self-proclaimed double-double machine who backed that up by leading the country with 15.1 rebounds per game and tallying 17.4 points per game last year.

Big Blue has Sahvir Wheeler back running the point who led the SEC conference and ranked third in the country dishing out 6.9 assists per game. Other veterans back include forwards Daimion Collins, Jacob Toppin, and Lance Ware.

Tshiebwe and Ware both sat our Big Blue Madness due to some minor surgery for both players, but coach John Calipari expects them both to be ready soon.

We got a taste of the newcomers during Kentucky’s Big Blue Bahamas four-game exhibition trip in August but are ready to see them in meaningful games. Watching Chris Livingston and Cason Wallace, a pair of McDonald’s All-Americans will see plenty of playing time.

Others making a splash early and will definitely help this team as the season goes along are signees Adou Thiero and Ugonna Onyenso and transfer Antonio Reeves, a 20.1-point scorer at Illinois State last year. CJ Fredrick, a sharp-shooter transfer from Iowa, is back healthy after sitting last year with an injury.

Preseason AP Top 25

1. North Carolina (47)
2. Gonzaga (12)
3. Houston (1)
4. Kentucky (2)
T5. Baylor
T5. Kansas
7. Duke
9. Creighton
10. Arkansas
11. Tennessee
12. Texas
13. Indiana
14. TCU
15. Auburn
16. Villanova
17. Arizona
18. Virginia
19. San Diego State
20. Alabama
21. Oregon
22. Michigan
23. Illinois
24. Dayton
25. Texas Tech

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