By JESSICA JONES, Contributing Writer
These Cats have taken us to the near pits of the Calipari era. Multiple home losses. Blown games. Multiple huge scoring droughts. Lackluster defenses. Head scratching turnovers. Freshmen mistakes. And the worst of all, a four game losing streak.
A couple of weeks ago many fans, including myself, thought we would be lucky to win a single game in the SEC Tournament, let alone the NCAA Tournament. However, fans (myself included) must always remember it’s never as bad as it seems.
It seems like Kentucky has started clicking at just the right time. This team has a chance for redemption by winning some big games in March. But just when Kentucky starts clicking, fans are reminded that things are never as good as they seem either and the young guys revert to their old ways and get run out of town by Florida.
It’s well known that Calipari coaches for March. So where are these Cats headed? Redemption?
It’s no secret the Cats were clicking prior to the Florida game. Briefly we saw the Kentucky team we have been waiting for. Kentucky had multiple games that had scorers in double figures. That’s a great sign going forward. They had really cut down on silly turnovers until they coughed it up 13 times against UF.
Jarred Vanderbilt has become a rebounding MACHINE but was limited against Florida due to fouls. Kevin Knox has started to become the Kevin Knox we had expected. Hami Diallo has been hitting threes like he’s the second coming of Doron Lamb! But again he went silent against UF.
Quade Green and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are taking care of the ball, scoring when needed, and tossing out assists. When it’s clicking, it’s a beautiful thing. I love it. I haven’t even mentioned Wenyen Gabriel, who has cracked the starting lineup and lately and is making all the hustle and effort plays, not to mention he has been stroking it from downtown as well.
These are all things I’m excited about as we begin SEC Tournament play and then the NCAA. The Florida loss did damper my excitement a bit as it seems that Kentucky took a few steps back. Playing on the road on senior night, I’m going to forgive them for that one. What I’m really interested in seeing is how we perform in St. Louis. I’m hoping the Florida game has lit a fire under these guys.
Going into the SEC Tournament, I like our chances. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t make it to Sunday. The SEC Tournament is really important this year. We need to get a couple more Quadrant 1 wins under our belt and we are primed to do that if we can win a few games in the SEC Tournament.
I’d like to say I think we will win it. Of course we can. There’s also a chance we lose the first game. Kentucky has got to play like it played during the most recent four-game win streak. The stagnant offense can’t rear its ugly head or we will be in trouble. The turnovers can’t be abundant. The defense has to show up.
With that said, the fan in me says we will go there and come back SEC Champs. Realistically, I do think we make it to the final game for sure. It’s important for Kentucky win a couple of games this week. I don’t think it hurts us to lose in the final but losing before that would be disappointing.
And then selection Sunday awaits.
If we win the SEC I can see us getting up to a 4 or 5 seed. If we lose sometime before the final game we are staring at a 6-8 seed. We can’t be upset if the committee ships us off across the country. Bottom line is we don’t have enough good wins and too many losses to get a good seed. I think likely we end up on the 5-6 line playing far away from home.
I think this team has all the capabilities to reach the second weekend and maybe more. I haven’t seen UK perform like it should for more than three games in a row, though. My expectation is that this team can reach the Sweet 16. After that it really depends on the draw.
I’ll never bet against Calipari in March. Let’s rally around these guys and hope they give us another great story. Get ready for a great tournament ride.
GO BIG BLUE!