Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Kentucky No. 3, Louisville Not Ranked in ESPN's No-Longer-Way-Too-Early Top 25 for 2015-16

The Kentucky Wildcats are No. 3 in ESPN's No-Longer-Way-Too-Early Top 25 preseason rankings for 2015-16.

Maryland is No. 1 followed by North Carolina. Virginia and Kansas round out the top 5.

Here's a look at the top 10:

1. Maryland
2. North Carolina
3. Kentucky
4. Virginia
5. Kansas
6. Duke
7. Iowa State
8. Oklahoma
9. Wichita State
10. Villanova

Here's what ESPN says about Kentucky:

3. Kentucky Wildcats

Our previous No. 1 earned that status largely through deference. The Wildcats have come to operate on an altered time-space continuum under coach John Calipari; when they lose talent to the NBA, they usually replace it, and fast. It was reasonable to assume the same would happen this spring. And it did, to a certain extent: UK already had the No. 1 center (Skal Labissiere) and No. 1 point guard (Isaiah Briscoe) in the 2015 class when five-star shooting guard Jamal Murray reclassified from 2016 to start his career at UK early. Murray played extremely well at the Nike Hoops Summit and for Team Canada in the Pan Am Games; he appears to be a star, and one few saw coming months ago.

Then again, Murray's arrival was made possible by a string of elite recruits with spring decisions who chose not to go to Kentucky. Five-stars Cheick Diallo, Brandon Ingram, Stephen Zimmerman, Malik Newman and Jaylen Brown -- who looked likely to end up in Lexington before eschewing Coach Cal for Cal(ifornia) -- all ended up elsewhere. On May 5, in a not-even-thinly veiled recruiting message titled "We may never platoon again, but players will always come first," Calipari essentially admitted that the shared-minutes ethos of his 38-1 team actually hurt UK on the trail. "It's amazing people could try to use that against us, but I guess you have to come up with something," Calipari wrote, just before assuring his readers he would never platoon again.

"Hurt" is relative: UK's was still the No. 2-ranked 2015 class. Kentucky won't have a laughably balanced Monstars roster in 2015-16; fans might want to hold off on the latest edition of their 40-0 tattoos. This team will have more mundane occupations, such as moving senior forward Alex Poythress back to the four to give the Wildcats another body alongside Labissiere and Marcus Lee in a frontcourt that suddenly needs bodies. But what UK does have -- in Lee, Poythress, a very good recruiting class and point guard Tyler Ulis playing real starter's minutes -- is going to be awfully good. Mortal, sure. But good.

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