Kentucky Wildcats on the wrong side of college basketball history

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John Calipari's team is the lowest ranked preseason No. 1 in more than 30 years

Kentucky Wildcats on the wrong side of college basketball history

Kentucky entered the season hoping to be in rare company. The idea of the top recruiting class in the history of college basketball challenging 40-0 always seemed far fetched.

But at the start of the season Kentucky certainly appeared much closer to winning 30-plus games during the regular season than losing 10.

Instead, Kentucky is trying to avoid another kind of company — from preseason No. 1 to unranked. After losing twice last week to Arkansas and most embarrassingly to SEC bottom feeder South Carolina, Kentucky was ranked 25th in this week’s Associated Press poll, 22 points from falling out completely.

Kentucky, which finishes the regular season at No. 1 Florida on Saturday, may be the first AP preseason No. 1 team to spend a week out of the polls since Indiana did it in 1979-80.

With an 11-5 record in a weak SEC, the Wildcats already are one of the most disappointing preseason No. 1 teams in recent decades. It’s rare for a preseason No. 1 team to spend any amount of time outside of the top five, much less the majority of the season.

On Dec. 2, Kentucky was ranked third in the nation before a 67-62 loss to Baylor dropped the Wildcats to 11th. Kentucky lost again to North Carolina on Dec. 14, so even defeating Louisville to end 2013 could’t give Kentucky a push back into the top 10

Altogether, Kentucky has been ranked no higher than No. 11 since Dec. 2.

It’s worth noting Kentucky was not a dubious pick as a No. 1 team. Athlon Sports ranked Kentucky No. 1, but Athlon was not alone by any means.

Perhaps the most disappointing preseason No. 1 in the last 10 years was 2004-05 Kansas. The Jayhawks that season returned seniors Wayne Simien and Keith Langford but finished 23-7 overall and 12-4 in the Big 12 before losing to No. 14 seed Bucknell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

If there’s hope for Kentucky, it could look toward 2000-01 Arizona, which lost eight games during the regular season, slipped to 24th in the AP poll but rebounded to reach the national title game.

What kind of precedent is Kentucky setting, here’s how all the preseason No. 1 teams fared since Indiana flopped in 1979-80.
 

How AP Preseason No. 1 Teams Fared since 1979-80
Preseason No. 1 TeamFinal RecordLowest RankNCAA Tournament
13-14 Kentucky21-8No. 25--
12-13 Indiana29-7No. 7Sweet 16
11-12 North Carolina32-6No. 8Elite Eight
10-11 Duke32-5No. 5Sweet 16
09-10 Kansas33-3No. 3Second round
08-09 North Carolina34-4No. 5National champion
07-08 North Carolina36-3No. 5Final Four
06-07 Florida35-5No. 7National champion
05-06 Duke32-4No. 3Sweet 16
04-05 Kansas23-7No. 12First round
03-04 UConn33-6No. 9National champion
02-03 Arizona28-4No. 4Final Four
01-02 Duke31-4No. 3Sweet 16
00-01 Arizona28-8No. 21National runner up
99-00 UConn25-10No. 24Second round
98-99 Duke37-2No. 4National runner up
97-98 Arizona30-5No. 8Elite Eight
96-97 Cincinnati26-8No. 12Second round
95-96 Kentucky34-2No. 5National champion
94-95 Arkansas32-7No. 12National runner up
93-94 North Carolina28-7No. 5Second round
92-93 Michigan31-5No. 7National runner up
91-92 Duke34-2No. 1National champion
90-91 UNLV34-1No. 1Final Four
89-90 UNLV35-5No. 14National champion
88-89 Duke28-8No. 14Final Four
87-88 Syracuse30-8No. 17Elite Eight
86-87 North Carolina32-4No. 5Elite Eight
85-86 Georgia Tech27-7No. 7Sweet 16
84-85 Georgetown35-3No. 2National runner up
83-84 North Carolina28-3No. 2Sweet 16
82-83 Virginia29-5No. 7Elite Eight
81-82 North Carolina32-2No. 2National champion
80-81 Kentucky22-6No. 11Second round
79-80 Indiana21-8NRSweet 16

 

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