Jan 23, 2013, 9:20 AM EST
In 2011-2012, Kentucky didn’t lose an SEC game until March 11th. It was Selection Sunday and the Wildcats lost to Vanderbilt in the SEC title game. It was Kentucky’s second loss of the season, the first of which came on Christian Watford’s memorable buzzer-beater back in December.
On Tuesday night, the 2012-2013 version of the Wildcats went into Tuscaloosa and lost their second SEC game of the season, 59-55 to the Crimson Tide. On January 22nd. In an SEC that is no where near as strong as it was a season ago. To an Alabama team that couldn’t figure out a way to beat Mercer or Tulane just nine days after the Wildcats lost at home to a Texas A&M team that lost to Southern.
I’ve defended the Wildcats all season long. I’ve said that there’s no way a team with this much talent, with four future lottery picks, can miss the tournament in a season like this with a bubble that’s projecting to be the weakest it’s ever been. All along, I’ve said there is nothing that head coach John Calipari does better than get a group of misfits to somehow figure out to work together for seven months, how to put there differences aside and buy into a role and become a team.
I’m not so sure that’s the case anymore.
And it puts Kentucky in danger of actually missing out on the NCAA tournament.
The biggest issue is that the Wildcats haven’t answered any of the question marks they had two months ago. Alex Poythress is still an enigma. He’s got the talent and the ability to absolutely dominate, to be an all-american and the perfect compliment to Kyle Wiltjer and Nerlens Noel along the front line. He just doesn’t seem to know how to take over a game or put together 40 minutes of maximum effort. Case in point: Poythress is shooting 62.1% from the floor this season, but he hasn’t taken more than nine shots in a game since Kentucky lost to Baylor on December 1st. He’s taken more than five shots in just one of Kentucky five SEC games.
Archie Goodwin is by far Kentucky’s highest-usage player, but he’s also by far their most inefficient, according to Kenpom. And even those numbers become inflated once you factor out Kentucky’s seven opponents that couldn’t crack Kenpom’s top 200. Take away those games, and he’s shooting 35.6% from the floor and 24.0% from three while his assist-to-turnover ratio drops from 1.05:1 to 0.77:1.
Willie Cauley-Stein is injured. Nerlens Noel simply isn’t a threat on the defensive end of the floor, and his ability to block shots has gotten Kentucky into lazy habits on the defensive end. Kyle Wiltjer has turned into their go-to scorer down the stretch despite the fact that asking Wiltjer to be much more than a spot-up shooter is a risk at this point in his development.
Add all of that up, and what it means is that Kentucky is now just 1-6 against the RPI top 100. That one win? Maryland, who is 64th in the RPI.
The Wildcats will get a couple of chances to land big wins during SEC play. They go home-and-home with Florida still (6th), visit Ole Miss (32nd) and host Missouri (27th). They also have the rematch with Texas A&M (57th) in College Station. And then there is the SEC tournament to think about.
So Kentucky’s not dead in the water yet.
But they currently have the profile of an NIT team, and if they don’t land a win over Florida — who looks like the best team in the country over the last two weeks — the Wildcats will probably have to win the rest of their SEC games, simply because they cannot afford a loss to a team like Tennessee (102nd), Vanderbilt (127th) or Georgia (181st) to avoid having the profile of an NIT team come Selection Sunday.
The bigger issue is what we have seen on the court.
Kentucky has looked like an NIT team. And they haven’t done anything to persuade those watching that a change is coming in the near future.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
Dec 22, 2014, 11:55 PM EST
A scary situation as Dwayne Polee II collapsed in the middle of San Diego State’s game against UC Riverside.
Dec 22, 2014, 10:22 PM EST
Austin Hatch is the man.
Dec 22, 2014, 9:24 PM EST
All of Monday night’s action in one place.
Dec 22, 2014, 9:05 PM EST
Kansas no-showed on Monday night as Temple crushed the Jayhawks.
Dec 22, 2014, 7:55 PM EST
Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin will miss another game as he continues to undergo testing for a brain aneurysm.
Dec 22, 2014, 6:30 PM EST
A former Texas guard transferred to the school he originally pledged to in high school before later re-opening his recruitment.
Dec 22, 2014, 5:54 PM EST
Kethan Savage should change his last name to Posterized.
Dec 22, 2014, 5:45 PM EST
Illinois has to get more offense around Rayvonte Rice before a road-heavy start to the Big Ten season.
Dec 22, 2014, 3:06 PM EST
There are some 86 games on tonight.
Dec 22, 2014, 2:28 PM EST
With conference play right around the corner, who have been the best players in the country?
Dec 22, 2014, 1:41 PM EST
If there’s anything that can ruin Kentucky’s dream of a perfect season, it’s coming from their own locker room.
Dec 22, 2014, 11:54 AM EST
We went an entire week without an unbeaten losing.
Dec 22, 2014, 11:25 AM EST
It’s great that the Rams do this.
Dec 22, 2014, 10:01 AM EST
The Buckeyes are 9-2, dropping both of their key non-conferences games against ranked opponents.
Dec 22, 2014, 9:00 AM EST
Some new faces make their way into the Weekly Awards.
Dec 22, 2014, 6:30 AM EST
The top 12 remain the same, but there was plenty of movement in and around the rest of the top 25.
Dec 21, 2014, 11:09 PM EST
Yeah, you’re going to want to see this.
Dec 21, 2014, 10:31 PM EST
Four of the eight teams in the field reached the NCAA tournament last season.
Dec 21, 2014, 8:22 PM EST
Virginia limited Harvard to 27 points, Maryland won at Oklahoma State, and Georgia picked up a solid home win.
Dec 21, 2014, 7:04 PM EST
Could the Terps be the second-best team in the Big Ten? At the very least they’ve earned their place in the conversation.
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