Kentucky Wildcats on the wrong side of college basketball history

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

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 Team Final Record Lowest Rank NCAA Tournament
13-14 Kentucky 21-8 No. 25 --
12-13 Indiana 29-7 No. 7 Sweet 16
11-12 North Carolina 32-6 No. 8 Elite Eight
10-11 Duke 32-5 No. 5 Sweet 16
09-10 Kansas 33-3 No. 3 Second round
08-09 North Carolina 34-4 No. 5 National champion
07-08 North Carolina 36-3 No. 5 Final Four
06-07 Florida 35-5 No. 7 National champion
05-06 Duke 32-4 No. 3 Sweet 16
04-05 Kansas 23-7 No. 12 First round
03-04 UConn 33-6 No. 9 National champion
02-03 Arizona 28-4 No. 4 Final Four
01-02 Duke 31-4 No. 3 Sweet 16
00-01 Arizona 28-8 No. 21 National runner up
99-00 UConn 25-10 No. 24 Second round
98-99 Duke 37-2 No. 4 National runner up
97-98 Arizona 30-5 No. 8 Elite Eight
96-97 Cincinnati 26-8 No. 12 Second round
95-96 Kentucky 34-2 No. 5 National champion
94-95 Arkansas 32-7 No. 12 National runner up
93-94 North Carolina 28-7 No. 5 Second round
92-93 Michigan 31-5 No. 7 National runner up
91-92 Duke 34-2 No. 1 National champion
90-91 UNLV 34-1 No. 1 Final Four
89-90 UNLV 35-5 No. 14 National champion
88-89 Duke 28-8 No. 14 Final Four
87-88 Syracuse 30-8 No. 17 Elite Eight
86-87 North Carolina 32-4 No. 5 Elite Eight
85-86 Georgia Tech 27-7 No. 7 Sweet 16
84-85 Georgetown 35-3 No. 2 National runner up
83-84 North Carolina 28-3 No. 2 Sweet 16
82-83 Virginia 29-5 No. 7 Elite Eight
81-82 North Carolina 32-2 No. 2 National champion
80-81 Kentucky 22-6 No. 11 Second round
79-80 Indiana 21-8 NR Sweet 16

 

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