It's a good time to be Dick Vitale right now. Not only are his beloved Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series, but college basketball is right around the corner. After some recent good news for the Kentucky basketball program, Dickie V has high expectations for the program this year.
Dickie V has been updating his preseason rankings every so often. A few weeks ago, he put out a top 10, with the Wisconsin Badgers coming in at the No. 5 spot, followed by Kansas, Michigan State, Texas Tech, Duke, and Tennessee.
The Kentucky Wildcats were not involved in that ranking. They got some big news this week, as Wake Forest transfer Olivier Sarr was deemed immediately eligible, after a long wait for an NCAA decision. With that news, Vitale has them as his preseason No. 5 team.
Sarr's situation had been one that Dick Vitale was following closely. “Analyzing a player ala Olivier Sarr of Kentucky basketball doesn’t require GENIUS STATUS,” he tweeted back in August, clamoring for the NCAA to clear the talented center. “Why would it take so long? Come on his coach fired/Wake’s new coach (Steve Forbes) supports his waiver claim. I have an idea could it be due to the following name C-A-L-I-P-A-R-I? Just asking.”
Sarr, a 7-footer from France, was one of the top players on the transfer market this year. He averaged 13.7 points and 9.0 rebounds per game for Wake Forest last year, and should be a major contributor for Kentucky basketball this season.
The team also got the news that Jacob Toppin, brother of former Dayton superstar Obi Toppin, can play right away after transferring in from Rhode Island. He was a reserve for the Rams last year, so it is unlikely that he has a huge role from day one in Lexington.
Calipari was very happy with the news. From ESPN:
"I'm excited for Olivier and Jacob," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "Both have worked really hard and deserve this opportunity. They were both hopping and skipping out of my office after getting the news because they've been waiting on this day. I want to thank the NCAA and the SEC for considering the unique circumstances surrounding this season, and we appreciate them working with us throughout this process.
"In Olivier's case, I know this has been difficult for him, everything from the coaching change at Wake Forest to deciding his future to waiting through this process. He's gone about his business every day and continued to work hard in hopes of joining his teammates on the floor this winter. Jacob came here needing a fresh start. From day one, he's been a great teammate and been an important part of this group in practice. He has tremendous upside and a great spirit about him. I know we're all looking forward to chasing our goals soon."
It won't be long until we see this new-look Kentucky Wildcats team in action. The college basketball season is scheduled to begin in just over a month, on Nov. 25.