Kentucky Wildcats need a near perfect 2013 to ensure quality seeding

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Dec 29, 2012; Louisville, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) and Louisville Cardinals forward Montrezl Harrell (24) scramble for a loose ball during the first half at the KFC Yum! Center. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off an NCAA Title, this is not where John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats wanted to be. With a record of 8-4 and being ranked #29 and #31 in the two big weekly polls, Kentucky clearly has their work cut out to get a decent seeding in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. the kind of scenario I was afraid of a few weeks ago when I said that Louisville was a “must win” game on the podcast and Rick Pitino’s main man Pat Forde expounds on the Wildcats’s dilemma:

 

When put to the eyeball test Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats looked for some stretches of the game like a top-10 team – maybe even a potential Final Four team.

Ryan Harrow and the Wildcats hope to have more to shout about later in the season. (Getty Images)But when you look at the Wildcats on paper, you see an NCAA-tournament bubble team.

Do I expect Kentucky to make the field of 68? Absolutely. The team that rallied from 17 points down and only lost by three at Louisville has more talent than almost anyone in America, and the upside remains significant as the young parts mature and coalesce.

But here is the flip side: The Cats have deposited precious little in the Quality Win Bank in 2012, and the 2013 portion of the schedule doesn’t offer many opportunities to change that. The defending national champions may have to rely on that December eyeball test – and Kentucky’s brand name – to avoid sweating out a bubble scenario.

 

I think Forde is a bit too negative, but Kentucky can not afford any slip-ups.  The SEC is down. and Kentucky is not going to face a ranked team until Florida on 2/12 and UK has to win the 11 games until then.  Any slip-ups and you can consider yourself bubble bound.  But if Kentucky takes care of business, a 19-4 record is going to put them around a top 15 ranking or so, maybe higher.

It’s not time to worry yet …. as long as UK is perfect for January.

Dec 22, 2012; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari coaches his team against the Marshall Thundering Herd in the first half at Rupp Arena. Kentucky defeated Marshall 82-54. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Aside from making this years team tournament ready, John Calipari is still putting the final touches on next years top ranked recruiting class.  The most likely addition is Dakari Johnson, who has trimmed his list to Kentucky, Georgetown, and Syracuse, which ironically were Nerlens Noel’s final three teams.  Johnson talks a bit about his final three teams:

 

Johnson and his family lived in Lexington, Ky., for several years during his middle school years and he has extended family there.

“Of course they have great tradition and they have a great coach in Coach Cal, and great assistants in Coach O (Orlando Antigua) and Kenny Payne,” Johnson said. “I am very familiar with Lexington as I’ve lived there during my middle school years, so I am very familiar with the area.”

Syracuse assistant Adrian Autry has been recruiting Johnson since the player was in middle school, and Syracuse has produced its share of talented big men.

“I watched them ever since I was growing up in New York City,” Johnson said. “It’s a great school, and they have a great coach in Jim Boeheim.”

Georgetown, of course, has a tradition of sending big men to the NBA, from Patrick Ewing to Greg Monroe.

“Obviously, Georgetown is a good big man school and they have been great in developing big men from Ewing to Roy Hibbert and Greg Monroe,” Johnson said. “Coach [John] Thompson is a great coach, and I’d fit pretty well in their system.”

 

Dec 19, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New Orleans Hornets forward Darius Miller (2) is defended by Los Angeles Clippers guard Willie Green (34) at the Staples Center. The Clippers defeated the Hornets 93-77. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Hornets have sent Darius Miller to the Iowa Energy of the NBA D-League, as Miller simply was not getting the playing time in New Orleans:

 

“We didn’t like him just sitting,” Hornets Coach Monty Williams said. “We think it’s beneficial for him to go out and play and get some reps in games. He’s a young player and he’s got some skills for sure.

“He just wasn’t in the rotation. After the Minnesota game (on Dec. 14), I just felt like he wasn’t ready to play on a night-in, night-out basis, just watching him in that game. That doesn’t mean we don’t want him making sure his craft is getting better every day. That’s why we sent him to the D-League and be in game-time situations.”

 

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