January 12 was a day for Kentucky Wildcat basketball fans that would live in infamy. The Wildcats were torched by Elston Turner for 40 points and the not-very-good Texas A&M Aggies strolled out of Rupp Arena with a 83-71 win. The loss was demoralizing to the Big Blue Nation. National pundits circled the Wildcats like vultures and prematurely declared UK a NIT team. The salt was further ground into Kentucky fans wounds when on January 14th, the Louisville Cardinals became the new number one team in the country, while Kentucky was nowhere to be found in the polls. Not even in the “others receiving votes” section. And not that they deserved it. The loss dropped Kentucky to 10-5 and 1-1 in the SEC.
And just when everyone left Kentucky for dead, a funny thing happened.
They started winning. No, it has not been pretty at times, and no, they still are not playing up to their potential, but Kentucky is grinding it out and winning games that they would have lost before January 12. Since the Texas A&M debacle, Kentucky has gone 7-1 and knocked off then #16 Ole Miss on the road. They have defended Rupp Arena with a 4-0 mark and gone 4-1 on the road with a loss to Alabama. So while it has not been perfect and it has been ugly at time, Kentucky is doing what a lot of top teams cannot do lately and that is win consistently.
Need proof? Look at the number one teams. There will be a new number one team in the country for the sixth week in a row when the polls are released later today and Duke is expected to be the number one for the third different time in that span. But Louisville, Michigan, and Indiana, Kansas, and even the Blue Devils have spent weeks as “one and done” as the top team in the land in both the AP/USA Today polls. It’s obvious that the unexpected will happen in college basketball this year.
And when the polls are released, I doubt Kentucky will be ranked again. And that is on the intelligence of poll voters. At this point, Kentucky being ranked this week means nothing unless they beat Florida on Tuesday. Perhaps UK will use it as motivation and a sign of disrespect. But just to compare how Kentucky has played lately, let’s look at the inconsistencies of the “top teams” in college basketball since January 12.