‘Cat reflux? Sportsbooks not writing off Kentucky yet

Kentucky received no love in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll – not even a single vote – but sportsbooks aren’t writing the 1-3 Wildcats off just yet.

Kentucky dropped out of the Top 25 poll for the first time in 20 years on Monday amid just the second three-game losing streak under coach John Calipari.

However, slow starts are not uncommon under Calipari, who is faced replacing multiple “one-and-done” players on an almost annual basis. The Wildcats lost to Evansville during an 8-3 pre-Christmas record last year, only to go on to win the SEC championship by three games at 25-6 overall.

Kentucky’s slow start different this time?

Kentucky’s 2020-21 roster features seven freshmen and three first-year transfers whose time together has been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions leading up to the season. They have also been minus a key returning player in forward Keion Brooks, who has not played this season due to a calf injury.

John Calipari, Isaiah Jackson
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Wildcats’ NCAA title odds have lengthened at most sportsbooks, including to +2000 by BetRivers. However, that still puts them among the top dozen teams and ahead of numerous programs enjoying stronger starts to the season.

Calipari’s job of molding his young roster into a title contender is more challenging with a truncated schedule. The Wildcats play only two mid-major teams in a 27-game regular season.

Calipari believes in a challenging early-season schedule to help prepare his young teams for the rigors of the Southeastern Conference. Kentucky is being offered at +200 to win the SEC, behind only Tennessee (+190) and ahead of LSU (+450) and Florida (+650).

The Volunteers have yet to play this season after having five games canceled or postponed due to COVID-19 issues.

Kentucky and Tennessee aren’t scheduled to meet for the first time this season until Feb. 6.

–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)