It has been about a month and a half since an AP poll voter left the Kentucky Wildcats Basketball team off of his Top 25 ballot, prompting the AP to call him and certify that he was legally sane to vote in the AP poll. OK, that is not why they called him, but a lot of sportswriters were leaving the Kentucky Wildcats off. They had lost two of three games and were without an identity and in need of a signature win. Now, a few weeks later, Kentucky is surging in the RPI charts and the bracketology reports. Joe Lunardi has Kentucky as a two seed today. Deserved or not, this team has to do work on the court to keep their #2 NCAA basketball seeding.
The number two seed in nice, but at this point, means nothing. It has come about partly due to the tremendous unrest in the Big 10 where Wisconsin has lost three in a row to Michigan and unranked Indiana and Minnesota. Ohio State has lost four in a row and are reeling. #10 Iowa just lost to Michigan on Wednesday. There is similar disarray in the Big 12 where one time top ten Baylor is dropping like a rock and Iowa State has dropped three in a row. Oklahoma State is wearing two early conference losses and it looks like Kansas, with their early four out of conference losses are going to run away with the Big 12.
Kentucky can do the same and still end up with that #2 seeding at the end of the year. Here are three things they must do to earn it.
Kentucky now has a 20 game home winning streak and they must win out the rest of the way. The big challenge will be on February 15th versus Florida. It will be a tough challenge, but Billy Donovan has lost his last six games versus Kentucky at Rupp versus Billie Gillispie and John Calipari. The Gators are the real deal, but this bunch has not been able to get over the Rupp experience. The other “big” games at Rupp are also teams that have not fared well on the road versus UK. Ole Miss has lost their last seven games at Rupp. LSU tasted victory at Rupp in 2009, but are 1-12 in their last 13 trips to Kentucky’s haven.
BEAT LSU ON TUESDAY
It’s not a MUST WIN game for Kentucky to beat LSU on the road for a good season, but it is for a #2 seed. Kentucky has a very tough week away from Rupp next week with games at LSU and Missouri. Kentucky needs a win on Tuesday to silence the “this team can not beat a good team” on the road talk that occupied the 2010-11 season. Yes, UK beat Vandy on the road, but LSU will be a more impressive win. Plus, winning at LSU will give this team more confidence and a bit of road warrior swagger they will need next Saturday at Missouri. It’s not the end of the world if UK loses to LSU, but it helps a hell of a lot.
WIN TWO OF THREE VERSUS FLORIDA AND MISSOURI
For that #2 seed, this is imperative, I think. Certainly, I don’t think that Kentucky has to beat Florida at Gainesville to get a number two seed, but they do need another big win or two. As of now, the top teams on their schedule are Florida, Missouri, and maybe Arkansas. LSU and Ole Miss are the next toughest. It’s safe to say that quality wins will be rare, so UK needs to handle Florida at home and Missouri on the road. If they lose to Missouri, I think that sweeping Florida and no other bad losses may be enough to get a two seed.
It all starts with defending Rupp however. And before Kentucky can do any NCAA seeding, step one is beating Georgia on Saturday.