An updated Bracketology from ESPN’s Joe Lunardi still has Kentucky projected as the No. 1 overall seed in the 2023 NCAA Tournament.
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Lunardi has the Wildcats slotted in the South Region (Louisville), opening NCAA Tournament play vs. the winner of (16) Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and (16) Howard in Columbus. Should they win their first NCAA Tournament game since 2019, Kentucky would take on either (8) Oklahoma State or (9) Oregon.
Since the NCAA started seeding every team in the tournament in 1979, the Wildcats have earned a No. 1 seed 12 times. UK was the NCAA Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed in 2012 on its way to winning the national championship, and again in 2015, when it reached the Final Four.
Lunardi’s other No. 1 seeds include North Carolina (East), Houston (West), and Baylor (Midwest). His No. 2 seeds are Kansas (South), Arkansas (East), UCLA (West), and Gonzaga (Midwest).
Kentucky is one of seven SEC teams projected to make the 2023 NCAA Tournament, tied with the Big Ten and Big 12 for the most of any conference, alongside (2) Arkansas, (3) Tennessee, (5) Alabama, (5) Auburn , (8) Texas A&M, and (9) Florida.
Although the 2021-22 season came to a disappointing end with a loss to No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Kentucky coach John Calipari engineered the largest single-season turnaround in school history this season and the Wildcats (26-8) defeated North Carolina (29) and Kansas (18)–the two teams that played for the national championship–by a combined 47 points.
UK loses guards Kelan Grady and Davion Mintz to graduation and forwards Dontaie Allen (Western Kentucky), Bryce Hopkins (Providence), and Keion Brooks have each entered the transfer portal. TyTy Washington, Jacob Toppin and Shaedon Sharpe have entered the 2022 NBA Draft, with Toppin and Sharpe each maintaining his eligibility. Toppin is expected to return while Sharpe, who is widely projected as a top-10 pick, is expected to remain in the draft.
Following the announcements that national player of the year Oscar Tshiebwe and starting point guard Sahvir Wheeler will return, Kentucky is the betting favorite to win the 2022-23 national championship.
BetOnline has the Wildcats at 8-1 to cut down the nets in Houston. UK is followed by Arkansas (10-1), North Carolina (10-1), Houston (12-1) and Duke (14-1).
Tshiebwe and Wheeler have both confirmed they will return, as has reserve forward and former McDonald’s All-American Daimion Collins, and Iowa transfer and 46.6 percent career 3-point shooter CJ Fredrick, who missed the 2021-22 season with a hamstring injury. Reserve forward Lance Ware is also expected to come back.
Kentucky adds a pair of top-10 prospects and McDonald’s All-Americans Chris Livingston and Cason WallaceIllinois State transfer Antonio Reeveswho averaged 20.1 points per game for the Redbirds last season, and 4-star guard Adou Thiero as part of its 2022 recruiting class.
“It’s 9 or 10 guys on scholarship. It might get to 11. But I like this roster,” Calipari said.
“Jacob is going through the process. I believe he’ll be back but we’ll have to wait and see but I believe he’ll be back. With Daimion, with Lance, with Oscar, with our guards, with Chris, with Cason, with CJ, with Antonio and then Sahvir, I mean, come on. I’m saying, ‘Let’s go. Let’s play the games.'”