Kentucky plummets in latest ESPN Bracketology

Via 247 Sports By Chris Fisher

Considering we didn’t even get a 2020 NCAA Tournament and with the 2021 NCAA Tournament still nearly a year away, projecting the field may feel like a useless exercise.

But Joe Lunardi of ESPN’s most recent Bracketology following the wave of NBA Draft decisions serves to reflect exactly what Kentucky is losing from its 2020 SEC championship team.

Gone is the Wildcats entire starting five and eight players from its nine-man rotation. Gone is the SEC Player of the Year. Gone are two All-SEC First Team selections. Gone are two members of the SEC All-Defensive Team. Gone are Kentucky’s five most experienced players.

Gone is 96.1% of its starts, 92.4% of its minutes, 94% of its points, 84.4% of its rebounds, 98.8% of its assists, 92% of its steals, and 91.5% of its blocked shots.

Once a No. 1 seed, Lunardi has dropped Kentucky to a No. 5 seed in the Midwest Region of his latest projection, opening NCAA Tournament play vs. No. 12 Vermont in San Jose. The Wildcats are paired next to No. 4 seed Iowa, who could be the preseason national title favorite should national player of the year candidate Luka Garza withdraw from the 2020 NBA Draft and return to school.

UK is one of six SEC schools projected to make field, joined by (5) Florida, (5) Tennessee, (8) Arkansas, (8) LSU, and (10) Alabama.

Kentucky returns only Keion Brooks, who averaged 4.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in 15.1 minutes per game as a freshman this season. Kentucky Mr. Basketball and former 4-star prospect Dontaie Allen, who redshirted this season while still recovering from shoulder and knee injuries, also returns.

In the John Calipari era, Kentucky has only lost this much production across the board twice: 2011-12 and 2016-17. Only 2012 lost a higher percentage of starts, minutes, rebounds, steals and blocks. Only 2012 and 2017 lost a higher percentage of its steals.

The Wildcats do have the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class, which features its highest-ranked signee since 2015 in No. 1 shooting guard Terrence Clarke (No. 4 overall). Paired with No. 2 shooting guard BJ Boston (No. 7 overall), they give Kentucky its first pair of top-10 signees since 2016. In total, UK’s 2020 class features six of the top-50 prospects in the country as well as Creighton grad transfer and veteran combo guard Davion Mintz and Rhode Island transfer Jacob Toppin, who may have to sit out the 2020-21 season.

Even with No. 1 classes, the 2012-13 team, which lost star freshman Nerlens Noel to a season-ending knee injury midway through the year, finished 21-12 with a first-round NIT loss to Robert Morris. The 2017-18 squad suffered just the school’s seventh 4-game losing streak and first since 2008-09, going 26-11 and winning the SEC Tournament before being bounced by No. 9 seed Kansas State in the Sweet 16.

Kentucky will likely target Wake Forest transfer and Third Team All-ACC big man Olivier Sarr, who could change the entire complexion of the Wildcats’ 2020-21 season.

Via 247 Sports –

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