By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky lost to Evansville in November — a loss coach John Calipari said Saturday might be remembered for years — and then lost consecutive games in Las Vegas to Utah and Ohio State.
National media members wrote off the Wildcats. If most Kentucky fans are honest, they were wavering with their expectations for this team.
But guess what? Kentucky ripped off eight straight Southeastern Conference wins the last four weeks to go from trailing LSU and Auburn by two games in the league race to having clinched the SEC championship with two games to go.
Kentucky has climbed back into the top 10 of the national rankings and has moved back to a 3 seed in NCAA Tournament projections going into Tuesday night’s home game with Tennessee.
“I never stopped believing in this group. I said after Vegas, we’ll be fine. I said it. ‘We’ll be fine.’ But I wasn’t sure about this, where this is going, but I knew we’d be fine,” Calipari said after Saturday’s home win over Auburn.
What did he know?
“We’d be a team that would be playing, and we’d be playing in March. And the run that these guys have put together — and I come back to the same thing, you’ve got to have five, six games, get 25 points in a game (from one player), and maybe multiple games,” Calipari said.
“You must do that, because they have to be able to go in that tournament and know, I can do it if I have to; Marquis Teague, Darius Miller. I can do that if I have to; Doron Lamb. I can do it. ”
Wait. There’s more.
“Second thing is, you’ve got to got to go on a run of games. Because to win that thing (national championship), you have to win six in a row all year. If you haven’t won six in a row all year, why would your team believe you can do it?” Calipari said.
“So, all the stuff we are going through is good. It’s not so much winning our league, or winning our league tournament. It is what are we learning and preparing so when we walk into March, we’re ready, like our teams historically have been.”