UK was also No. 2 in the Associated Top 25
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky men’s basketball team will start at No. 2 in both major polls.
After landing in the second spot earlier in the week in the preseason Associated Press Top 25, UK was also voted No. 2 in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll, which was unveiled Thursday.
Kentucky earned 734 points, with Michigan State earning the preseason No. 1 ranking with 792 points. Kansas reeled in 687 to finish third. Duke and Louisville round out the top five, respectively.
The full preseason rankings are available at USAToday.com.
It’s the 10th time in the 11-season John Calipari era the Wildcats will begin the season ranked among the nation’s top five in the Coaches’ Poll.
Calipari’s squad has been ranked in the top three to open play seven times. Calipari has had a team ranked among the top 10 in the preseason poll in all 11 seasons at the helm as voted on by a panel of Division I head coaches in consultation with the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
The members of the Coaches Poll represent each of the 32 Division I conferences that receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Each coach submits a top 25 with a first-place vote worth 25 points, second place 24, and so on down to one point for 25th.
Seven Kentucky opponents were ranked in Monday’s AP Top 25, and eight will begin the year among the top 25 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Nonconference foes Michigan State (1), Louisville (5), Texas Tech (12) and Ohio State (16) comprise a formidable slate that leads into one of the nation’s toughest conferences.
SEC members Florida (6), Auburn (23), LSU (24) and Tennessee (25) were also ranked among the top 25 with Mississippi State just on the outside receiving votes. Kentucky plays Florida, Auburn and Tennessee twice, and will visit LSU. All told, UK will face 11 opponents ranked in the preseason top 25 of the Coaches Poll.
Kentucky was picked by the media to win its 49th SEC regular-season crown. UK returns to action with an exhibition game vs. Georgetown College on Sunday at 5 p.m. on SEC Network. Kentucky’s regular season opens Nov. 5 in New York vs. Michigan State in the State Farm Champions Classic.
Kentucky is coming off a 30-7 season that culminated in a trip to the Elite Eight, the Wildcats’ seventh under Calipari. Those seven appearances lead the country over the last 10 seasons.
The Wildcats welcome back a solid core of returners led by sophomore guards Ashton Hagans (7.7 points per game and 160 total assists in 2018-19) and Immanuel Quickley (30 3-pointers), junior forward Nick Richards (74 career games), and sophomore forward EJ Montgomery (3.8 points, 4.1 rebounds in 2018-19). Hagans was tabbed to the preseason All-SEC First Team and Montgomery was a second-team pick. Both players earned selection to preseason positional player of the year awards presented by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Hagans was on the Bob Cousy Award Watch List for the best point guard, and Montgomery was among the candidates for the Karl Malone Award presented to the nation’s best power forward.
To replace the losses of first-round NBA Draft picks PJ Washington, Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson, plus Reid Travis, who signed a professional contract in the German Basketball Bundesliga, Calipari has brought in another top-ranked recruiting class that features six freshmen – five of them considered consensus four- or five-star prospects – plus graduate transfer Nate Sestina.
Freshmen Tyrese Maxey and Kahlil Whitney headline the freshman class. Maxey joined Montgomery on the All-SEC preseason second team and was one of 20 players selected to the preseason watch list for the Jerry West Award which is awarded to the nation’s top shooting guard. Whitney was selected to the Julius Erving Watch List given to the top small forward. Both players were rated among the top-15 players in their class.