With the end of the college basketball season 2021-22 Monday night, it’s now “Too early” ranking season, and many believe the Kentucky Wildcats will be in great shape next season.
After losing to Saint Peter’s and with so much uncertainty on the list, the Big Blue Nation needs some positivity.
So let’s take a look at where some of the stores placed Kentucky and what they had to say, as well as some projections about the starting lineup for next season.
College Hoops Today (Jon Rothstein): Nr. 1
Expected start 5:
G Sahvir Wheeler
G Shaedon Sharpe
G Chris Livingston
F Keion Brooks (first participant in NBA Draft)
C Oscar Tshiebwe
Projected bench: Jacob Toppin, CJ Fredrick, Daimion Collins, Bryce Hopkins, Lance Ware, Cason Wallace
Key loss: TyTy Washington, Kellan Grady, Davion Mintz
Key newcomers: Shaedon Sharpe, Chris Livingston, Cason Wallace
This projection is the best-case scenario for Kentucky, which would have a National Player of the Year in Oscar Tshiebwe, a potential No. 1 overall 2023 NBA Draft pick in Shaedon Sharpe, and high-impact seniors in Sahvir Wheeler, Keion Brooks and Jacob Toppin, plus a very deep and talented bench if Cason Wallace is a part of it.
Sports news: Nr. 1
The Wildcats will not be here when we release this list for the fall if Oscar Tshiebwe, The Sporting News Player of the Year, does not return for another season. He won so many trophies that he has no more to prove as an individual colleague, but he might want to win an NCAA tournament game before he leaves and there could be money for him in the NIL category. And it seems unlikely he will be a first-round pick.
Tshiebwe would do well to go into the draft to get the best possible information, which seems almost certain, but he could return. The Wildcats have recruited two top-10 wingers in the recruiting class in 2022, should get more out of this year’s freshmen, Bryce Hopkins and Daimion Collins, and should still have point guard Sahvir Wheeler in charge of the offense.
With a few more leads gathered from the transfer portal, there may be enough here to make disgruntled Kentucky fans forget Saint Peter’s.
Sports Illustrated: No. 2
Perhaps the biggest looming draft decision that could realistically go both ways is in Lexington, where rebound-hungry Oscar Tshiebwe has to decide whether to return after a record-breaking season with the Wildcats. As good as Tshiebwe is, his skills for NBA purposes are quite limited, and in the name, image, and equality era, he will have huge opportunities to make money if he stays in Kentucky. Add him next to a senior point guard in Sahvir Wheeler and an elite recruiting class that might even include 2022 draft prospect Shaedon Sharpe, and Kentucky looks loaded to ’22-23.
24/7 Sports: No. 2
Expected starting lineup: Sahvir Wheeler, Cason Wallace, Chris Livingston, Keion Brooks, Oscar Tshiebwe
247Sports Composite class ranking: No. 25
This year’s national player, Tshiebwe’s return, is a big key to this placement, though the Wildcats appear to be on the hunt for the transfer portal’s big men for safety’s sake. Brooks is testing the NBA Draft waters, and we did not include Shaedon Sharpe, a potential talisman, because he is an expected top-10 pick. Wallace and Livingston are five-star prospects, and Wallace’s commitment to the defense will be welcomed immediately. Is there enough outdoor shooting at this point? It’s too early to worry about such a thing, although it will be an interesting question if one is to put Jacob Toppin in on the four in that lineup.
CBS Sport: Nr. 3
The Wildcats’ ranking is based on CBS Sports National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe returning to school along with other starters Sahvir Wheeler and Keion Brooks, the latter of whom has declared himself an NBA Draft but maintains his eligibility for college. So far, I expect 5-star guard Shaedon Sharpe to participate and remain in the NBA Draft, given that he is an expected top-10 pick – but John Caliparis Wildcats could move to No. 1 if Sharpe in finally decides to play next season in the UK.
ESPN: No. 7
The Wildcats would battle for No. 1 spot if Oscar Tshiebwe or Shaedon Sharpe return to Lexington, but given their current draft status, we have both players on the way. But John Calipari wants a talented squad next season in both ways. Sahvir Wheeler and Keion Brooks Jr. both return to the starting lineup, and the additions of five-star recruits Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston will add some more playmaking to the lineup. There needs to be a breakout player up front, whether it’s former five-star recruit Daimion Collins, Jacob Toppin or someone else, but there are options. Don’t forget former Iowa transfer CJ Fredrick, one of the elite shooters in college basketball who missed last season with a hamstring injury.
Expected starting lineup:
Sahvir Wheeler (10.1 PPG)
Cason Wallace (No. 14 on ESPN 100)
Chris Livingston (No. 12 on ESPN 100)
Keion Brooks Jr. (10.8 PPG)
Daimion Collins (2.9 PPG)
There are some other notable “early” ranked teams included that Kentucky has a high probability of meeting next season, including the Arkansas Razorbacks, Tennessee Volunteers, Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers in the Southeastern Conference.
It’s not to be forgotten to play the Michigan Wolverines, Michigan State Spartans and potentially the UCLA Bruins in the CBS Sports Classic in non-conference games.
There are many good teams and next year’s teams will be challenged.
With all that said, there are hundreds of downloads and messages that have not yet been announced, so take it all in stride.
Over the next few weeks, players will begin to publish their decisions, and I expect the list to begin to take shape before exact expectations can be set.
When I say this, where do you think Kentucky should be in the early 2022-2023 college basketball rankings? Tell us in the comments!