2/27 – vs Mississippi State
RPI RANK: 241
Face it. This is a game Kentucky should and will win easily. And in case the committee looks at margins, this needs to be a 20+ point win. Minimum. Vanderbilt dusted this team 72-31 this weekend and the Bulldogs are 0-14 against top 100 teams and have lost 12 games in a row. The Bulldogs do not have a player averaging in double digits. This game needs to be like ripping off a band-aid … over as quickly as possible and painless. A loss here would throw Kentucky into the NIT much like the loss to Georgia did a few years ago.
3/2 – @ Arkansas
RPI RANK: 82
This game kind of scares me. The Razorbacks are probably not a NCAA team, but they are a very tough team to beat at home and are 16-1 at Bud Walton Arena. Teams like Florida, Missouri, and Oklahoma have all left Arkansas with their tail between their legs and if Kentucky is not careful, they can too. This is a team that has lost to Vanderbilt and South Carolina on the road by 18 and 21 but the only team to win on their home court has been Syracuse. It’s cliché, but this game depends on which Kentucky and Arkansas team show up.
3/7 – @ Georgia
RPI RANK: 122
Once again, a game that Kentucky should win easily, but it should be noted that the Bulldogs own a road win over Tennessee and have swept Texas A&M. Those are fringe teams that beat Kentucky and the Bulldogs are 0-6 versus top 50 teams. Texas A&M is the Bulldogs best win, which is also Kentucky’s worse loss ironically. Interestingly, the Bulldogs did have a very respectable loss to Indiana by 13 points on a neutral court, so let’s root for the Wildcats to win by 15 without much drama.
3/9 – Florida
RPI RANK: 4
Make no mistake, Florida is the crown jewel of the SEC and a win here would probably give UK a #6 seed and a spot in the rankings. Kentucky looked horrible versus the Gators earlier, but this game is at Rupp and well, Billy Donovan has not fared that well at Rupp and the Gators are 7-4 in true road games. So a win is possible. After Saturday, I have renewed optimism in this game as Missouri has beatedn Florida recently and we saw how Kentucky finally responded to the big game atmosphere at Rupp.
So bottom line … what does Kentucky have to do to make the tournament. I say that as of now, Kentucky needs three wins to clinch a spot and the easiest path is Mississippi State, Georgia, and Arkansas. That will put Kentucky at 22-8 and 13-4. Seeing that Alabama has to play at Gainesville on 3/2, that should also give UK sole position of second in the SEC. So a spot should be won, regardless of what happens against UF. A loss should still give Kentucky at least an eight seed, which can be improved by winning two games in the SEC Tournament. Despite all the conjecture and negativity of the season, the story is hardly written and can still have a successful ending.