If you take a look at the AP Top 25 or USA Today Coaches Poll, the Kentucky Wildcats are nowhere to be found.
Not even in the “others receiving votes” section.
There have been questions about whether Kentucky will even make the NCAA tournament this year. Believe me, Kentucky will be in the big dance, and they’ll be one of only a handful of teams with a realistic chance to win the whole thing.
That’s right, I said it.
I’ve kept a top-40 list of my own all season, and Michigan and Kansas have been No. 1 and No. 2 for nearly two months. I expect them to play for the championship, but as we all know, anything can happen in the tournament.
Besides the aforementioned two, I only give four other teams a realistic chance of winning the title. Sure, the perfect storm of results could produce a lucky winner (see Duke 2010), but usually the best teams rise to the top in March. Kentucky is one of those four.
Nerlens Noel is playing unbelievable defense. He looks like an NBA Jam character out there, rising well about the rim to swat away shots at will.
He has the ability to crush the confidence of opposing big men, eventually deterring them from even thinking about scoring in the post. When he’s not blocking shots he’s getting steals and taking charges, and he’s on my two-man list for Defensive Player of the Year along with Indiana’s Victor Oladipo.
Archie Goodwin has struggled shooting during conference play, but I still see a Dwyane Wade-like ceiling for him. He attacks the rim with relentless aggression, and once he develops a consistent shot, he’ll be deadly. Archie’s a phenomenal competitor, and he’s tough to keep off the offensive glass late in the game.
While not a finished product, Archie Goodwin has star potential at the next level.
Alex Poythress has played well this season, but he’s starting to take his game to another level. Poythress has connected on a sky-high percentage from the field all year, but he struggled a bit with his overall game once conference play started. He’s beginning to look like he’s adjusted to the step up in talent, and you can see his confidence and aggression level rising with each game.
Kyle Wiltjer and Ryan Harrow have also played with more confidence of late. As a result, Kentucky is a much improved team. The return of Willie Cauley-Stein will make them even better.
Last year’s team set the standard extremely high, but Calipari is doing a masterful job once again. This team is under the radar, but I have a feeling people will start to take notice soon.
I currently have Kentucky ranked No. 6 in my poll.
Unfortunately that won’t help the Wildcat’s current rating, but they should fare well the rest of the season. No matter what their record or seed is come March, Kentucky will be a very dangerous opponent for anyone in the NCAA tournament.
If things break the right way, Kentucky could just go back-to-back.