Yesterday was a make or break day for this Kentucky basketball team. The loss against Vanderbilt by such a huge margin meant that Kentucky is going to get no breaks from the selection committee. Jerry Tipton today in his notebook noted that Kentucky may be the first SEC team with 10 wins in conference not to make the tournament, but I will go farther. They will be the first team with 11 wins not to make the tournament after the loss at Vanderbilt by that finishing margin. With no important wins out of conference and some very important losses, 12 wins in conference is now the deal. Hit it and the Cats likely finish in 2nd place in the conference and are in….miss it and it is likely NIT time. Thus if the Cats had lost yesterday, the season would effectively be over. While the Cats might pull off a miracle win at Tennessee, you simply cant expect it at this point. So beating LSU and getting the taste of that night in Nashville out of our mouths was priority number one.
And the Cats did just that by winning the only way this group knows how….with grit. Lots of folks wrote me yesterday frustrated with the way Ramel Bradley played and how he let LSU in with a number of late mistakes. But who got the big rebound when it counted and who hit the clinching free throws? The same Smooth. Joe Crawford, who is the poster boy for UK fans’ frustrations at times, had a Joe Crawford special game….gutting out points when you didnt think they were possible and letting the team ride on his sometimes shrugged shoulders. Derrick Jasper hit two big free throws at the end, one you just KNEW he was going to miss, but didnt. Patrick Patterson was a star as usual and did an admirable job down low against the LSU timber. And dont forget Jodie Meeks….his time while Patrick was out with foul trouble in the first half, was crucial to the final margin.
So now the path is clear. Three straight games at home and the Cats cant drop any of them. They will be favored in all three, but at least two will be wars. The fans must show up and get loud and Kentucky must play with emotion. These three games are the NCAA requirements and the Cats cant be flat in any of them. Then comes a road game to Tennessee….win that game and you remove all doubt. But lose it and things arent over. No one expects a win in Knoxville and they wont be punished for the loss. But then comes the game that matters. Since the win against Tennessee at home, we have been saying, watch out for the road game against South Carolina. Dave Odom’s last game in Columbia….hot shooting team….with the NCAA hopes potentially on the line. That is a MUST WIN and a potential loss. It will be the game of the year. Florida at home on Senior Day and the streak better be broken or I may have to hide Jai Lucas in Hubby’s bag.
The table is now set….the Cats must do the job. While everyone else worries about 10 or 11 wins, keep in mind what really matters…..12 is the magic number. The Cats are in with 12….and it is certainly now in reach.
Couple more notes…
— Mike Williams didnt make the trip yesterday and was suspended for the game. The rumors of him being booted off are incorrect but there is no word how long the suspension will last.
— Scotty Hopson did a tv interview last night and when mentioning his favorite schools, left the Cats out. Take that for what you want.
— DeAndre Liggins played in Louisville last night…10 points and 12 boards in a winning effort. He is Derrick Jasper again folks (which is good), with slightly better perimeter shooting
— Its Daytona time and I love it.