The regular season ended on a sour note yesterday afternoon, when the Wildcats reverted back to their old bad habits on the road against Florida. After building up momentum on a four-game winning streak, we were left with more questions heading into the postseason.
That being said, the excitement surrounding another SEC Championship trophy and a run in the tournament is absolutely still there, and there were several impressive moments throughout the year that helped build up that excitement.
Check out the top-five signature moments from the 2017-18 regular season:
No. 1: The Louisville Beatdown
The controversy surrounding the Louisville basketball program was at an all-time high, with the final punishment from the NCAA looming from the team’s latest scandal.
And Kentucky’s matchup with the Cards only added to their embarrassment, as the Cats rolled to a 29-point blowout in Rupp Arena.
Hamidou Diallo kicked off the game with a baseline facial slam over Anas Mamoud, and the Cats took control the rest of the way.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander notched 24 points off the bench, followed by 16 points from PJ Washington and 14 points from Diallo.
Brad Calipari even entered the game, the ultimate final death blow to Louisville’s morale.
No. 2: Cats complete the comeback in West Virginia
After being down by as many as 18 points, Kentucky fought tooth and nail on the road against West Virginia to complete the epic comeback.
Kevin Knox shined on the big stage, finishing with 34 points on 11-17 shooting and five massive threes. Hamidou Diallo contributed big buckets, Nick Richards broke through his slump, and several players provided solid minutes off the bench.
When adversity came, the Cats persevered, and it instantly became the most impressive victory of the season against strong competition.
No. 3: We (finally) see a complete game against Virginia Tech
Throughout the year, we saw many “what-if” games with one or two players not carrying their weight, both offensively and defensively.
Against Virginia Tech, we saw our first true complete performance against a quality opponent, and the end result was pretty darn fun.
Kevin Knox led the team with 21 points on 7-15 shooting, to go with five rebounds, four assists, and a steal.
Hamidou Diallo had his best game in a Kentucky uniform, finishing with 20 points, five rebounds, two assists, and three steals. He also hit a dagger three at the end of the game to seal the victory.
The Virginia Tech game was the first time we saw the team truly click, and the potential they had as the year progressed.
No. 4: Kentucky fights in the Champions Classic
Everyone knew the Cats were young, and after two “meh” performances to start the year, expectations were fairly low going into the annual Champions Classic.
In the game, however, Kentucky fought all the way through the final buzzer, and put themselves in position to win against a talented Kansas squad late.
It was also a coming out party for Kevin Knox, who finished the day with 20 points, seven rebounds, two steals, and a block.
The Cats went home with a loss, but it was an impressive performance for the youngest team in college basketball to kick off the season.
No. 5: Jarred Vanderbilt’s return
Kentucky lost on the road against South Carolina back on January 16, but all eyes were on the return of injured forward Jarred Vanderbilt.
In just 14 minutes of action, Vanderbilt scored six points, grabbed five rebounds, and tossed three assists. His energy off the bench was a breath of fresh air for a team that had lacked it for the vast majority of the season.
From that point on, Vanderbilt has become a fan-favorite, and easily one of the most fascinating players on the team on passion for the game alone. He has become a force on the glass, a pest on defense, and has even found his groove offensively over the course of Kentucky’s four-game winning streak.
Here were his first two points as a Wildcat:
BONUS: Calipari’s speech at Big Blue Madness
We all knew this job was made for John Calipari, but it was on full display yet again at Big Blue Madness this season.
In his latest edition of the State of the Program address, Calipari had the Rupp Arena crowd hanging on every word. He discussed just how special Kentucky basketball is, the passion of the fanbase, and once again, how it isn’t for everyone.
Check out the entire speech:
Anything I missed or that stood out to you guys in particular?