Bison last season en route to Second Team All Patriot
Joe Lunardi projects Kentucky as a No. 1 seed in his latest ESPN Bracketology released Tuesday.

Lunardi has the Wildcats as the fourth No. 1 seed in the West Region Los Angeles , opening NCAA Tournament play vs. No. 16 Rider in Cleveland. Should Kentucky advance, UK would face the winner of 8 Penn State and 9 Georgetown. The No. 2 seed in the West Region is archrival Louisville, who Kentucky plays at Rupp Arena on Dec. 28.

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Kentucky hasn t been seeded in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament since 2007.

The other three No. 1 seeds are Michigan State Midwest , Duke East and Kansas South . Kentucky tips off the 2019 20 season vs. the top seeded Spartans at the Champions Classic in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 5.

After losing consensus Third Team All American PJ Washington, as well as SEC Newcomer of the Year Tyler Herro and SEC Freshman of the Year Keldon Johnson to first round picks in the 2019 NBA Draft and reserve guard Jemarl Baker to transfer, head coach John Calipari returns quite a bit from last season s squad that finished 30 7 with an overtime loss to Auburn in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

Kentucky returns junior center Nick Richards Hamidou Diallo Jersey, sophomore point guard and reigning SEC Co Defensive Player of the Year Ashton Hagans, sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley and sophomore power forward EJ Montgomery.

The Wildcats only return 27.2 of its points, 30.5 of its rebounds, 45.1 of its assists, 44.1 of its steals and 51.1 of its blocks from last season but add the nation s No. 2 recruiting class which features four of the top 30 prospects in the country according to the industry average 247Sports Composite rankings.

Calipari signed 5 star combo guard Tyrese Maxey, 5 star wings Kahlil Whitney and Keion Brooks, 4 star shooting guard Johnny Juzang and Kentucky Mr. Basketball Dontaie Allen as well as Bucknell grad transfer Nate Sestina, who is considered one of the nation s top transfers after averaging 15.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game for the Bison last season en route to Second Team All Patriot League honors.

Kentucky is also still awaiting the reclassification decision of 5 star center N Faly Dante, who will decide whether to make the jump to the 2019 class. The Peach Jam Most Valuable Player, who is currently ranked No. 12 overall in the 2020 class and took an official visit to Lexington in late June, is considering LSU, Kentucky and Oregon among others.

The Wildcats are currently one of seven SEC teams projected to make the NCAA Tournament, the second most of the Power 5 conferences, trailing only the Big Ten 8 . UK is joined in the NCAA Tournament projection by 2 Florida, 7 Auburn, 7 Mississippi State, 8 LSU, 10 Ole Miss and 11 Tennessee.

Kentucky, who has been a No. 1 seed in three of Calipari s 10 seasons and a No. 2 seed twice, is projected as a consensus preseason top 5 team heading into the 2019 20 season

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