As we head into the weekend, Kentucky faces a must win road game at the Auburn Tigers. I know it’s odd to call any game in January a “must-win” game, but face it, Kentucky’s NCAA resume is very thin and the SEC is not exactly world-beaters this year. This team has been compared to the 2010-11 team and like that team, Kentucky is going to need to go on a serious tear for the rest of the season. Even then, they may face a sub-par seed as the SEC is on a down year. With that said, I decided to look at how this team compares to the 2010-11 team and see what the forecast is for the rest of the NCAA season.
At this point in 2011, the warning flags were just starting to wave. Kentucky was ranked #15 in the country and was coming off a 82-44 win over LSU at Rupp Arena. Kentucky had quality wins over then #11 Washington, #23 Notre Dame, and a road win at #20 Louisville. There were a few bumps in the road that would be a sign of the trouble above, like a 84-67 beat-down by then-unranked UConn and a 7 point road loss to a Georgia team that was then 12-2. For those Wildcats, the bumpiness was just starting.
Kentucky went a very pedestrian 5-5 over their next 10 games and a more alarming 1-5 on the road. Even then, the pollsters were kind to Kentucky and they were still ranked 23rd in the country after a week in which they lost to Arkansas and beat Florida at Rupp. That win over Florida probably saved UK’s season and started a 10-game winning streak which ended in a Final Four loss to UConn.
There is another big difference in that year’s team. Unlike this year’s version of the Wildcats which already have two home losses and two losses by more than 10 points, that 2010-11 Wildcat team was perfect at home and lost those five games by a combined 11 points. Because of those reasons, there is really no comparison between the two teams at this point in the season.
The big question is what happens from this point on? To help predict the path ahead, I went to Real Time RPI, which has predicted the games through 2/14. I realize it is all speculation, but the same site picked Kentucky a 79-65 winner over Tennessee, which was not far from the final outcome. Keep in mind, this scenario is all computer-generated, but it gives us an idea at what may happen. So pony up Neo, and let’s enter the Matrix: