As defending national champions with a completely different starting lineup, the media did not seem to think that was a challenge for Kentucky this season. The Cats were picked as favorites to win the SEC, yet again, receiving 17 of 22 votes. Florida and Missouri were second and third, respectively. If they went 16-0 in league play and are on a 52 game home winning streak, why shouldn’t they be able to do it again this season?
Two years removed from coaching in Knoxville, former Tennessee coach and current ESPN analyst Bruce Pearl says he thinks that Kentucky will be the best overall team in the SEC this season. “They are so talented, so deep and John Calipari does the best job of any coach in country at getting kids to play hard and unselfishly and accept responsibility of what it means to play in that uniform.” Even though teams such as Missouri and Florida will be very talented and have a shot at beating Kentucky, he says the Cats are poised to win the league again.
But he also had another comment regarding the Cats: “I just think it will be difficult to maintain that streak of not losing at home. Young players can be more inconsistent. Will they guard and rebound every night?” That’s quite a bold statement coming from a guy who has never defeated Kentucky in Rupp Arena, with both Billy Gillispie and Calipari at the helm.
The Cats have a weak out-of-conference schedule at home. With Indiana and North Carolina both off the schedule this year, the only appealing home game looks to be against Baylor. But at home, the Cats face: Tennessee, Florida, Missouri with the College Gameday show and primetime slot on ESPN, and South Carolina, depending on how Frank Martin pans out during his first year. Kentucky played Florida three times last year in three seperate locations, with the same result. Tennessee is still rebuilding. Missouri will be the most challenging game, if Frank Haith can be consistent in winning.
Those are only four games on the schedule that challenge the Cats at home, and during the second half of the year, the players and their chemistry tends to be more cohesive for UK. Kentucky has the longest current home winning streak, and the overall longest home winning streak. Why won’t they continue it this season?