Skip to content

SEC title game preview: Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt

Mar 11, 2012, 8:50 AM EDT

University of Kentucky's Teague lays it up under pressure from Vanderbilt University's Ezeli and Johnson during the second half of play in their NCAA basketball game at Rupp Arena in Lexington

Theoretically, Vanderbilt would seem to be in a perfect position to knock off Kentucky in the SEC Tournament finals.

The Commodores gave the Wildcats two good games during the regular season. In Memorial Gymnasium, Vandy erased a 13 point halftime deficit to tie the score in the second half before UK pulled away and won by six. At Rupp, the ‘Dores actually had the lead at the break and never let Kentucky pull away from good, eventually losing by just nine.

The reason why is that Vandy matches up fairly well with Kentucky. They are a veteran group with a big, strong center in Festus Ezeli to put a body on Anthony Davis, an athlete the caliber of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in Jeff Taylor and arguably the nation’s best shooter in John Jenkins. The fact that Vandy knows they can play with Kentucky surely will help as well.

Kentucky hasn’t looked dominant in the SEC Tournament, either. After struggling in a win over LSU in the quarterfinal round, Kentucky got pushed to the brink by a Florida team that can get hot and hang with anyone.

The key to beating Kentucky this season is catching them on a night when they aren’t playing their best basketball, and they haven’t been in New Orleans. The good news, however, is that it looks like Terrence Jones had decided that he wants to be the Terrence Jones that just oozes with potential. In both the LSU and Florida games, he was the guy that sparked the run that changed the game. When he comes to play, he makes the Wildcats a completely different team.

Win or lose, Kentucky is going to be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. That is about as much of a fact as we have heading into Selection Sunday. The more intriguing question, however, is whether the Wildcats “need to lose”.

The thinking goes like this: when you are dealing with a group of talented youngsters that are sneaking by against teams they should beat the group can get complacent. Bad habits develop, intensity wanes and that is precisely how favorites lose in the NCAA Tournament. A loss would provide a wake-up call, but I don’t buy it.

The last thing a team wants to do is head into the tournament believing they are beatable, and that is precisely what a loss would do. Personally, I would be more worried about the fact that this group of youngsters might get blinded by the bright lights of their first (and only?) NCAA Tournament.

But the bottom line is that if Kentucky is playing their best basketball, they are not going to lose.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Georgia, Mark Fox agree to contract extension through 2020

    May 22, 2015, 4:27 PM EDT

    Mark Fox AP

    Fox has led the Bulldogs to two NCAA tournament appearances in his six years as head coach, including last season’s 21-win team.

  2. Former Bradley guard to complete eligibility at Rutgers

    May 22, 2015, 2:40 PM EDT

    Darius Carter, Zach Brown, Omari Grier AP

    The Rutgers perimeter rotation may be crowded, but there’s plenty of room for contributions as the team won just ten games last season.

  3. North Carolina announces receipt of Notice of Allegations from NCAA

    May 22, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    UNC now has 90 days to craft a response to the NCAA’s allegations.

  4. Four-star 2016 power forward commits to UConn

    May 22, 2015, 12:05 PM EDT

    (AP) AP

    This isn’t the only addition UConn hopes to make to the 2016 class in the very near future.

  5. Duke, Louisville and Kansas among Kentucky’s non-conference opponents

    May 22, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The Wildcats will also take on Arizona State, UCLA and Ohio State in non-conference play.

  6. VCU hopes to regain year of eligibility for junior college transfer

    May 22, 2015, 9:50 AM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwi3otuyzgqyymy0yzdhm2mzntk2mzg5zmrlnzczm2vm AP

    Mohamed and Bakersfield big man Aly Ahmed argued in 2013 that bad advice led to them being ruled ineligible that season at Houston and Bakersfield, respectively.

  7. 6-foot-10 power forward becomes Virginia’s fourth 2016 commitment

    May 21, 2015, 10:40 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The slender forward joins Sacha Killeya-Jones, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy in Virginia’s 2016 haul.

  8. Power forward becomes Texas Tech’s fourth 2015 commitment

    May 21, 2015, 9:35 PM EDT

    2014 Adidas Nations Getty Images

    Davis joins grassroots teammate C.J. Williamson Jr. in Texas Tech’s 2015 recruiting haul.

  9. North Carolina’s Roy Williams discusses impact of NCAA investigation on recruiting

    May 21, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    UNC fell short in the race for Brandon Ingram, and the investigation was a big reason why.

  10. Matchups for Basketball Hall of Fame Classic announced

    May 21, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    John Calipari will coach against former assistant Orlando Antigua November 27 in Miami.

  11. Georgia Tech lands second graduate student in former UALR forward

    May 21, 2015, 6:35 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The Jonesboro, Georgia native averaged 11.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game as a redshirt junior at UALR.

  12. Sports book lists Maryland as early favorite to win national title

    May 21, 2015, 4:58 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Last spring Mark Turgeon was seen by some as being on the “hot seat.” This spring, one sports book believes he’s got the early favorite to win the national title in 2016.

  13. John Calipari is selling his program when he says national title isn’t a goal

    May 21, 2015, 2:09 PM EDT

    150521calipari Getty Images

    Cal is always selling his program, and his latest viral quote is no different.

  14. Ben Howland lands commitment from four-star forward from Kentucky

    May 21, 2015, 12:40 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Holman was expected to spend 2015-16 at a prep school.

  15. LSU’s ’25 is coming’ campaign doesn’t try to hide that they’re monetizing Ben Simmons

    May 21, 2015, 10:34 AM EDT

    Ben Simmons (Kelly Kline/Under Armour) Ben Simmons (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

    But this overt display of ‘amateurism’ may actually be good for the fight for student-athlete rights.

  16. St. John’s lands 2015 point guard Marcus LoVett Jr.

    May 21, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    (Nike) (Nike)

    The Red Storm are now up to seven newcomers with this addition.

  17. Iowa State AD urges fans to remain calm over Fred Hoiberg possibilities

    May 20, 2015, 10:25 PM EDT

    AP AP

    While Chicago has been discussed for quite some time as a franchise that may approach “The Mayor,” they still have a head coach in Tom Thibodeau.