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The UK Wildcats, desperate for a much needed win, traveled to Georgia to play the Bulldogs. UK entered the game with a record of 16-8 and dangerously close to dropping out of the NCAA Tournament picture. UK on the strength of a 6 game SEC winning streak had climbed to 7-4 in conference play. Georgia was not to be denied as they beat UK 75-68.
How did UK get to this point in the season?
Kentucky fans would get a glimpse of how the season was going to go after UK lost to Michigan State in the STATE FARM CHAMPIONS CLASSIC in double overtime 77-86. Most pundits believe UK should have won the game but felt Spartan Coach Tom Izzo simply out coached UK’s coach Cal. That loss was followed up by a disappointing effort at Gonzaga 88-72 in a game that wasn’t that close.
Kentucky would win 4 more in a row over teams that really didn’t put up much of an obstacle and pushed Kentucky’s record out to 7-2. Then came the CBS Classic against UCLA. A 63-53 loss stunned UK fans and would run UK’s record against Power 5 Conference schools to 1-3 on the season. Over the next 6 games, UK would drop 3 games to Missouri, Alabama and a crushing home loss to South Carolina leaving the Cats at 10-6.
UK would then give fans some hope, reeling off 4 wins in a row starting with an incredible win at Tennessee. The Cats climbed back in the NCAA Tournament hunt with a record of 14-6. Then came another opportunity to pad their resume with a struggling Kansas coming in to Rupp Arena on the heels of 3 straight losses. Kentucky however simply wasn’t ready to be on this stage and would fall to the Jayhawks, 77-68 in a game Kentucky should have won.
After a couple more wins, UK once again had a home game they needed and could help their resume, and as they had done all season long, lost to Arkansas in a game that wasn’t close. The Razorbacks came in to Rupp Arena and out coached, out hustled and simply out played Kentucky for a 88-73 win. What is striking about this game was the game plan against Arkansas. Nearly every Arkansas loss on the season were to teams that played zone defense against them. Either Coach Cal never got the memo or simply didn’t think it would matter as UK stayed in Man to Man defense nearly the entire game.
What’s coming up for UK?
UK, it now appears, will have to run the table to get in to the NCAA Tournament and that will be a difficult task to say the least. The must travel to Mississippi State before facing Tennessee at Rupp. Then there is a trip to Florida before coming home for Auburn and Vanderbilt before closing out the regular season at Arkansas. Then it will be the SEC Tournament which Kentucky may have to win to even have a shot at the NCAA Tournament. Kentucky could enter the SEC Tournament with 11 losses.
How did we get here?
How did Kentucky get to this point where they are struggling to get in to the NCAA Tournament? How did things get this far gone. How is it that the Blue Blood Wildcats have not had a NCAA Tournament win since 2019. How has this once proud program went through 3 of the worst years in program history. A 9 win season 2 years ago, a mind blowing first round loss to St. Peters in last years NCAA Tournament. BBN fans have been calling for Coach Cal’s ouster since the dreaded “Take a Knee Fiasco” a few years ago. Some think that is the beginning of the downfall of this once great and feared program. UK last won a title in 2012 and was last in a Final Four in 2015. Since then, disappointment.
So what is the problem, what happened? First off Kentucky fans can dispense with all the what ifs. The fact is this. Coach Cal can recruit with the best of them. There is no question about that. As an X’s & O’s coach, Cal has never been considered a master mind and gets out coached on a regular basis. The reason it’s never really been an issue is because the Cats were winning and we all know, winning cures everything. Next thing and this may shock some, These Wildcats are simply not as good as everyone thought they would be. Are they playing up to their ability, is the coaching staff not doing their job bringing out their talent? Defensively, Kentucky is lacking everywhere. Offensively, UK runs the same offense they have for year so they are extremely easy to plan for.
At this point in the season, Kentucky simply should not be having these issues over and over. They have lost several games from either not being prepared for their opponent to simply not having the urgency UK Wildcat fans are used to seeing. No-one is saying these players don’t want to win, but their performances cannot be hid. Wildcat opponents, play harder and with more passion than Kentucky players, If it were just a couple games this would be different, but this has been going on now for multiple seasons with different players. Cat fans need to start looking at the truth, Kentucky Men’s Basketball simply isn’t the team opponents once feared. They simply aren’t as good as people thought.