Breaking down Kentucky basketball: Bracketology, NET rankings and more


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari holds his hands over his head during the No. 16 Kentucky vs. Yale mens basketball game on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 69-59. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

With the fall 2022 semester in the books, or one or two finals away from it, for most students at the University of Kentucky, it’s safe to say it is definitively college basketball season.

With 31 games existing in the regular season for college basketball, Kentucky has completed almost 30% of its season, boasting a 7-2 record and the No. 13 ranking per the AP Poll.

With less than ⅓ of the season in the books, some may find it crazy to analyze rankings, bracketology and the likes, but lest anyone forget it was ultimately a loss in November that kept Rutgers in the First Four – where it lost – last season and not in the field cleanly despite having five ranked wins, four of which were top 15 at the time.

With that said, Kentucky currently stands 0-1 against ranked competition, falling short in Spokane against then No. 2 Gonzaga on Nov. 20. The Wildcats have a matchup against a second ranked opponent, No. 16 UCLA, this weekend, but that’ll come into play later.

Gonzaga is, by most metrics, the best team Kentucky has played thus far, with the Zags currently ranked No. 21 in the NET, No. 12 in KenPom and projected to be a No. 4 seed come tournament time by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.

The best team Kentucky has beaten, however, is debated by different metrics, but neither win is remarkable.

The NET rankings favor the Yale Bulldogs, Kentucky’s most recent victim, ranking the projected Ivy League winners No. 45, while KenPom puts them at No. 79. Lunardi projects Yale to be a No. 13 seed.

Michigan, on the other hand, is ranked No. 81 by the NET, but No. 44 by KenPom and projected to just miss out on the tournament as part of the “next four out” by Lunardi. It must be said as far as bracketology goes, Yale is projected to have an auto-bid while Michigan is not.

Kentucky is projected as a No. 4 seed by Lunardi while KenPom sees it ranked No. 6 and the NET brings up the rear with the Cats at No. 29.

According to KenPom, Kentucky ranks No. 18 in offensive efficiency and No. 8 in defensive efficiency, explaining its high ranking.

The teams Kentucky has beaten are a completely different story, though.

Apart from Yale and Michigan, the highest rated team Kentucky has beaten is Duquesne, who sits all the way down at No. 137 in KenPom and No. 160 in the NET.

It’s also worth mentioning that Lunardi does not have a single team Kentucky has beaten, barring Yale, in the field of 68.

The remaining four teams Kentucky has defeated include Howard (No. 286 KenPom, No. 318 NET), North Florida (No. 216 KenPom, No. 243 NET), Bellarmine (No. 232 KenPom, No. 240 NET) and South Carolina State (No. 329 NET, No. 342 KenPom).

It may also be noteworthy that both SC State and Howard are ranked sub-300 in offensive efficiency with the Bulldogs also being sub-300 in defensive efficiency.

Looking at the other half of Kentucky’s record, Michigan State is the only other team to claim victory over the Cats, with the Spartans projected as a No. 10 seed by Lunardi and ranking No. 39 and No. 62 by KenPom and the NET respectively.

Kentucky’s next opponent, UCLA, is projected to be the toughest opponent Kentucky has faced all season, being projected as a No. 4 seed in the tournament and ranking No. 8 and No. 14 in KenPom and the NET respectively.

Beginning its conference schedule on Dec. 28 against Missouri, the Wildcats will be tested on a weekly basis, with 11 out of 14 SEC teams ranking within the top 100 in the NET and 12 being within the top 100 in KenPom.

Building off of that point, three SEC schools, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi State, rank within the top 10 per the NET and three, Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama, are within the top 10 per KenPom.

That’s not to say Kentucky doesn’t have any freebies left on its schedule, with “Unity Series” opponent Florida A&M ranking No. 357 in the NET and No. 359 in KenPom, the latter of which assigns the Rattlers the worst offensive efficiency margin in the country.

Beyond that, in-state rival Louisville, who is currently 0-8, ranks No. 240 in KenPom and No. 359 in the NET, the latter of which has the Cardinals pegged as the worst team Kentucky will play this season. The Cardinals rank No. 134 in defensive efficiency and No. 310 in offensive efficiency.

That said, all of these figures are subject to change, with college basketball games taking place all across the country on a near-daily basis.

Kentucky will have a chance to improve its projections and ranking this Saturday, Dec. 17, inside Madison Square Garden against UCLA. Tip off against the Bruins is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. EST and will air live on CBS.