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|