In less than two weeks, the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team will open the 2022-2023 season at Rupp Arena against Howard.
Last spring, Kentucky dubiously became just the 10th No. 2 seed in NCAA history to lose to a No. 15 seed when the Wildcats were upset in overtime by Saint Peters in the first round, 85-79.
Despite that letdown, there are still high hopes in Lexington coming into a new season. In the first Associated Press Top 25 College Basketball Poll, Kentucky came in at No. 4, receiving a pair of first-place votes. North Carolina, Gonzaga and Houston are the Top-3 ranked teams in the country, respectively. Kentucky and Gonzaga will clash early in the season on Nov. 20.
Kentucky sports betting is not legal but the Wildcats are very much on the minds of national sportsbooks crafting NCAA odds.
Calipari Teams Always Earn High Ranking
This is the 11th time in John Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky that the Wildcats enter the season ranked in the top 5. Kentucky was No. 10 in last year’s preseason rankings.
In the KenPom.com rankings, Kentucky is ranked No. 1 and ranked top 5 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
Kentucky’s Roster Is Stellar on Paper
A hamstring injury caused C.J. Fredrick, an Iowa transfer who went to high school 80 miles north of Lexington in Covington, Ky., to miss all of last season. The redshirt senior finally will make his blue and white debut this year after earning All-Big 10 honorable mention honors at Iowa in 2021.
Fredrick is just one of the newcomers who should have an immediate impact on a Wildcats team with lofty expectations. Freshman Chris Livingston, a 6-6 forward from Akron, was ranked as a top 15 recruit in the country by numerous outlets. He was named a McDonald’s All-American last year and the 2022 Gatorade Virginia Player of the Year while attending Oak Hill Academy. Before Oak Hill Academy, Livingston was the Ohio Gatorade Boys Basketball Player of the Year and a runner-up for Mr. Ohio Basketball at Buchtel High School.
Freshman guard Cason Wallace is another McDonald’s All-American that will suit up for the Wildcats this year. The five-star recruit was the 2022 Texas Gatorade Player of the Year last season at Richardson High School.
Kentucky will return several experienced players, including Jacob Toppin, Damion Collins, Lance Ware and Sahvir Wheeler, a quartet that combined for 20.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 8.9 assists per game last season.
Headlining the returning group of Wildcats is senior forward Oscar Tshiebwe, who was the unanimous National Player of the Year last season after averaging 17.4 points and 15.2 rebounds per game last season. He was second in the country last season with 28 double-doubles. In April, Tshiebwe announced that he would return to Kentucky and pass on the 2022 NBA Draft.
Kentucky is searching for its sixth regular-season SEC championship in the last 10 years and first SEC tournament title since 2018. The Wildcats have not made the Final Four since 2015 and the program’s last national title was in 2012.
Where does sports betting stand in Kentucky?
Sports betting is still prohibited in Kentucky despite multiple attempts to bring it to the Bluegrass State since the PASPA decision in 2018.
This spring, HB606, which called to “legalize, regulate and tax sports wagering in Kentucky,” passed in the House by a 58-30 vote, marking the closest Kentucky has ever come to sports betting. That’s as far as the bill would go, however, as it did not come up for a formal vote in the committee or Senate floor due to lack of senatorial support. The bill officially died in April during the final days of the legislative session.
Adam Koenig, the Kentucky Chairman of the House Licensing and Occupations Committee and an advocate for Kentucky sports betting, sponsored the bill. One month later, Koenig lost his 16-year seat in the primary election to first-time candidate Steve Doan.
In the meantime, Kentucky sports betting apps are off in the distance.
BetKentucky.com has taken a look at what sports wagering in the state could look like.
What are Kentucky’s odds to win the national title?
Though sports betting is not legal in Kentucky, here are the odds for the Wildcats to hoist some hardware down the road.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, each of the top 4 teams in the country - North Carolina, Gonzaga, Houston and Kentucky - are the betting favorites at +900 to win the national championship this April.
DraftKings also lists Kentucky as the clear-cut favorite to win the SEC regular-season title at +180. Tennessee and Arkansas are both second favorites at +350.