As most of the Commonwealth exits out of there turkey-induced hibernation, the teams of the University of Kentucky are in for a HUGE weekend. Three important teams for the University face weekends that could define their seasons and all games take place in the next 30 hours or so. A breakdown:
Depending on your perspective, we have learned a lot or nothing about this UK basketball team over the first couple of weeks of the season. One viewpoint is that the Cats showcased their inability to deal with three-point shooting, fast-paced teams in the VMI and UNC game and that Longwood and Deleware State tell no one anything about a team’s talent. Another perspective is that the VMI game was fluky, UNC is the best team in America and the Cats have since found a rhythm that is more indicative of this team and its potential. Which of these is true? Well this weekend may go a long way in making that determination.
In Kansas State and West Virginia/Iowa, the Cats will be playing teams that mirror what they will see most of the season. The SEC is down this year, and outside of Louisville and Tennessee, Kentucky likely wont play another team with significantly more talent than the Cats have on their roster. Thus games like these will occur all year….decent teams, not great and not bad, but able to beat you if you arent prepared. Last year, once the Cats hit SEC play, they beat these teams. This year, because of a weaker schedule and a lower RPI, the Cats cannot wait until then to win. They must beat a team like Kansas State and Bobby Huggins West Virginia or Big Ten Iowa team NOW. These wins are hugely important for the Cats and could be the difference between a solid NCAA Tournament resume and a shaky one.
Get two wins here, and the loss to VMI fades in importance. Two wins over major conference teams, combined with a win over Miami, puts UK in a position to still make noise nationally. Lose one game here and the Cats are still wavering….we dont know whether they are good or bad and nationally they are still outside the radar. Lose both games and the Cats may very well not make the NCAA Tournament. It really is that important and Vegas (baby) is crucial to defining how the Cats stand for the rest of the season.
How long has it been since we have beaten Tennessee? You may say since 1984, but I would suggest that it has been seemingly a lifetime. Thus while beating the Vols for Vol-sake is imperative, much more important is making this game a statement about the season. The Cats have a chance to finish the regular season with a winning record for a third straight year. And even though this team has been frustrating, I am not sure it has underperformed. You can pick out games it could have won, but you can also pick out games it should have lost. Yet now it sits….6-5 and ready to make a move towards another winning season. Win this game, on the road, against a team that this program simply cannot beat normally….and I think that is a successful season. Lose it yet again, and well….the season leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.
From a bowl perspective, this game may not matter. If Arkansas cant beat LSU, the Cats are in Nashville or Memphis no matter what yet again. But from a momentum and program standpoint it is huge. It is time to get the UT monkey off our back. It is time to show the SEC that Kentucky being good is not a fluke. They are now a mid-level SEC team and will be there to stay. It is time to make a statement, that Kentucky football is not a joke but a rising program that will bring it year in and year out, even when not blessed with a boat load of stars. All those plateaus can be reached with a win in Knoxville and it is important to make it happen.
We dont talk a lot of volleyball on this blog, but now is the time. After the tragic death of Jenni Casper, the volleyball program has been on a lot of people’s minds. And tonight in Memorial Coliseum, it has the potential to make quite a mark. They play against Tennessee tonight at 7:30 and if they win, the share an SEC championship…..a remarkable achievement for this program. UK volleyball has not been a team of rich tradition, but they have had a magical year and just got a commitment from a Top 10 player nationally for next year. Tonight will be an emotional night, the first home game since Casper’s death, and the energy will be unbelievable. Whether you can attend or not, keep the volleyball Cats in mind….it is one of the biggest games of the program’s history.
All that and more…..it is quite a weekend around UK athletics and we will keep you up to date right here. Stay tuned…..