Kentucky basketball: How the Wildcats stack up against rest of SEC
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Hunter Brown asks a good basketball question as league play is just around the corner: Where do you legitimately rank Kentucky in the SEC this year?
First of all, I didn’t pick Kentucky to win the SEC in the preseason. I picked Florida just ahead of the Wildcats — which looked great after the Gators’ win over Gonzaga and 35 minutes of domination against Duke, but less good since then. I picked Texas A&M right behind the Cats.
If you asked me today, that would be flipped. The Aggies have the most impressive résumé in the league with victories over West Virginia, Penn State and Oklahoma State on neutral courts and a win at Southern California. A narrow loss at Arizona is their only blemish.
I still think Florida is going to be really, really good and make a run at the Final Four, but the Gators are not without flaws, especially until big man John Egbunu comes back. But Texas A&M’s loaded front court is a problem for opponents, and I’m not sure Kentucky (or almost anyone) has an answer for it.
The Wildcats still will contend for another SEC title — I think they’re one of the top three teams in the league and don’t count them out by any means — but with so much youth and so few quality opponents so far, we just don’t really know what these guys can do.
As of this moment, seven SEC teams have more KenPom top-100 wins than Kentucky’s one (over No. 70 Vermont): Arkansas (5), Texas A&M (4), Tennessee (4), Alabama (4), Missouri (3), Florida (2) and Georgia (2).
We should know a lot more about where the Cats stand after the upcoming three-game stretch against Virginia Tech, UCLA and Louisville. Those are all top-50 teams. And then SEC play starts. Kentucky will have to beat out the Aggies and Gators and fend off new challengers including the Razorbacks and Volunteers to win this league again.
Here is how Kentucky’s résumé stacks up to the six other SEC teams that ESPN’s latest bracketology has making the NCAA Tournament field:
Kentucky (8-1) — One KenPom top-100 win, against No. 70 Vermont (at home). Only loss to No. 7 Kansas (neutral court).
Texas A&M (8-1) — Wins against No. 11 West Virginia (neutral), No. 29 USC (road), No. 39 Penn State (neutral) and No. 54 Oklahoma State (neutral). Only loss at No. 19 Arizona.
Florida (6-3) — Wins against No. 10 Gonzaga (neutral) and No. 13 Cincinnati (neutral). Losses to No. 5 Duke (neutral), No. 25 Florida State (home) and No. 73 Loyola Chicago (home).
Tennessee (7-1) — Wins against No. 8 Purdue (neutral), No. 76 N.C. State (neutral), No. 90 Georgia Tech (away), No. 92 Mercer (home). Only loss to No. 1 Villanova (neutral).
Arkansas (7-2) — Wins against No. 28 Oklahoma (neutral), No. 40 Minnesota (home), No. 64 Fresno State (home), No. 95 Bucknell (home) and No. 98 Connecticut (neutral). Losses to No. 9 North Carolina (neutral) and No. 44 Houston (away).
Alabama (7-3) — Wins against No. 47 Rhode Island, No. 72 BYU, No. 88 UT Arlington and No. 94 Louisiana Tech, all at home or neutral. Losses (all by 6 points or fewer) to No. 19 Arizona (road), No. 40 Minnesota (neutral) and No. 77 UCF (home).
Missouri (8-2) — Wins against No. 50 St. John’s (neutral), No. 63 Iowa State (home) and No. 77 UCF (road). Losses to No. 11 West Virginia (neutral) and No. 59 Utah (road).