Despite the fact that playing most SEC opponents on the road will be a challenge this year, that loss Saturday was quite dissappointing for a lot of reasons. Alabama is still just a middle of the road conference opponent and UK will play many tougher opponents over the next 18 games. Kentucky blew a real chance to be 4-0 in conference heading into their game at Auburn. And we saw some regression, albeit for one game, from some guys who had played so well against Utah, North Carolina, and Louisville. And I think any chance of playing in Louisville for the NCAA Tournament has probably slipped away unless the Cats can pull off some upsets.
So is there reason to panic? The answer is obviously not. It’s one game and this team still has plenty of talent and the ability to challenge for the SEC crown. Since 1992, UK has only lost its first game of the SEC season three times (now four). Those three instances:
2011: Lost at Georgia 77-70, Finished 10-6 (Final Four)
2006: Lost to Vanderbilt 57-52, Finished 9-7 (2nd Round)
2002: Lost at Mississippi State 74-69, Finished 10-6 (Sweet 16)
On the one hand, each of those teams went on to loss at least six SEC games, something that would be highly disappointing for this team. On the other hand, you saw a variety of NCAA Tournament results from those three teams. It’s a small sample size but all of the possibilities for this team are still there, except maybe playing in Louisville. The talent is there, which it wasn’t on a couple teams up there. They have shown flashes and are just missing that “something” that great teams have.