Let’s face it. There no more ranting, raving, and cajoling that John Calipari can do with this Kentucky Wildcats basketball team. As fans and bloggers there really is not much more than we can say. In a season that has been so random and so imperfect, there is just one thing these Kentucky Wildcats can do to ensure a NCAA Tournament bid. To paraphrase Al Davis, it’s “Just be perfect, baby”.
Yes, it has come to this. Just 29 games after winning the NCAA National Title, John Calipari is facing the ultimate one and done with this team. Just one more loss and this team is done. While the familiar nemesis like the Indiana Hoosiers, Louisville Cardinals, Duke Blue Devils as well as 65 other teams enjoy the pomp and circumstance of the Big Dance, the Wildcats are one loss away from being relegated to the NIT Tournament and it’s unofficial anthem of “Wait Til Next Year”.
I have to admit, I have been optimistic about Kentucky’s chances of making the NCAA even without Nerlens Noel. But Saturday’s loss was pretty much a deal breaker as far as the selection committee may be concerned. Even if Kentucky can beat Florida, it may not be enough to save their season. The season resume is a mess. UK is 6-9 versus teams that are in the top 100. There has been too much inconsistency and too many bad losses. And no good wins. Not really.
Kentucky is 1-4 against top 50 teams and their best win is over #34 Missouri, who is now trying to avoid an #8 seed. Wins that we thought would be good have soured as the season progressed. Maryland? Forget it. They are ranked #70th now. Ole Miss? At the time, it was a fantastic win, but after losing to Mississippi State, the Rebels are now 59th … eight spots below Kentucky. Kentucky’s quality wins are missing like their will to win and both need to be featured on the side of a milk carton. And the bad losses are mounting. In John Calipari’s first three seasons, Kentucky had just one double-digit loss. This season alone? Five.
So even beating Florida may not be enough. Like putting lipstick on a pig, the Wildcats can’t be guaranteed that a win over the Gators will make them more attractive to the selection committee. Fortunately, there is a failsafe plan in place for floundering teams to make the NCAA Tournament. And that is win the SEC Tournament.
As of now, Kentucky is tied for Alabama for second place in the SEC and if the seedings were today, would take the third seed. That is something UK has to maintain as they want to stay in that two or third place to avoid Florida until the championship game. If Kentucky loses to Florida on Saturday, they run the risk of finishing fourth, which places them in the same bracket as the Gators. So a win over the Gators on Saturday is needed to ensure they stay out of the Gators bracket. And face it, we are at the point where just making it to the SEC Final may not even be enough. To dance, Kentucky has to win the whole damn thing. And as badly as the top teams in the SEC have played, that is not impossible.
Can they do it? Of course. I have no doubt that they can if they played like they did versus Missouri and Ole Miss. The question is not if they can, but will they.
It’s time for this team to develop some pride and realize that they are playing for the name in front of their jersey and not themselves. It’s something they have not done much of this year. I’m reminded of Marcellus Wallace’s speech to Butch Coolidge in “Pulp Fiction” and waiting for this Kentucky team to experience that “sting of pride”, but it has not happened yet.
And at this point, you can’t blame John Calipari. He can not coach anymore. And you can’t blame the fan support. The BBN gets their heart-broken nightly with this team. All we can hope for is for untapped potential to awaken and to give us something to cheer for again. There can be no slip-up. There can be no mistake. There is just one way to save this season.
Just be perfect, baby.