Kentucky is ranked preseason No. 1
by Eric Prisbell, USA TODAY Sports
Seven months after then-unranked Kentucky missed the NCAA tournament, the Wildcats will open the 2013-14 college basketball season as the No. 1 team in the USA TODAY Sports coaches’ poll.
This marks the first time in the history of the USA TODAY Sports coaches’ poll, which began in the 1991-92 season, that a team enters a season No. 1 after finishing the previous season unranked.
After an uneven 2011-12 season, Kentucky Coach John Calipari heightened expectations for the Wildcats by securing one of the most impressive recruiting classes in the sport’s modern era. Calipari’s successful formula has been to rely heavily on freshmen, and this season should be no different with forward Julius Randle and point guard Andrew Harrison garnering some of the biggest headlines.
When asked if his team should be ranked No. 1, Calipari said Tuesday during the team’s media day, “We’ll be the most inexperienced team in the country, but we are really talented. We have got great size and speed and skill. Will we be a great defensive team and rebounding team, and will we share the ball? If we do that, we have a chance to be one of the best teams in the country.”
Kentucky has been the Coaches Poll preseason No. 1 one other time, in 1995-96, a season that ended with a national championship.
Led by last season’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year Gary Harris and big man Adreian Payne, Michigan State, which received three first-place votes, will enter the season ranked second. The Spartans return four starters from the team that lost to Duke in the Sweet 16.
Defending national champion Louisville received 10 first-place votes and was ranked third. The Cardinals, whose repeat hopes hinge in part on the play of All-American candidate Russ Smith, will compete in the American Athletic Conference this season before entering the ACC next year.
Entering the season ranked fourth is Duke, which last season lost to Louisville in the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight. Despite losing its top three scorers, the Blue Devils, who received the remaining three first-place votes, possess arguably their most athletic team in more than a decade … [For more on Kentucky is No. 1 in preseason USA TODAY Sports Coaches Poll, click here.]