I am not typically one to look at the bright side and ignore the obvious. Plus, I said before Saturday that the theme for the Missouri game was “no excuses”, which I still believe. There are no more reasons that UK should perform like that other than the simple truth that they just are not good enough. As it stands right now, there is no other excuse needed for what we’ve seen for most of this season. This team just isn’t very good most of the time. They show flashes but they haven’t put it all together for more than half in any game except Louisville.
With that said, I’m in the mood to look at the bright side and I think the only way to do that is looking back at the past teams of the Calipari era. What you may forget is that nearly all of them have had flat performances in February or later. While I am not sure any of the following games can be considered as bad as what we saw in Columbia, just remember that Cal teams don’t always find their groove every game and things still turn out OK:
2009-10: Tennessee 74, #2 Kentucky 65 (February 27th)
FG: 21-60 (35.0%)
3FG: 2-22 (9.1%)
Remember: UK was completely flat in this game, trailing by 11 at half and 19 at one point in the 2nd half, they actually came back to tie it late before falling. But their shooting percentages were dreadful, had an assist to turnover ratio of 8:13, and saw the bench give a whooping 5 points of relief. Fans began questioning if this team was really a national title contender at that point. Of course, UK went on to win 8 straight games, an SEC title, and a run to the Elite 8.
2010-11: Arkansas 77, #22 Kentucky 76 (February 23rd)
FG: 30-71 (42.3%)
3FG: 3-19 (15.8%)
Remember: This was a sub-.500 Arkansas team but the Cats had a very poor outside shooting night and dropped another tight game on the road. While I don’t know if you could consider this performance “flat”, it did follow the same theme of that season, which was that team couldn’t pull out a tight win on the road and didn’t have the toughness to win in the NCAA Tournament. Of course UK went on the win the next 10 games, 8 of which were away from Lexington, and on the way to the Final Four.
2011-12: Vanderbilt 71, Kentucky 64 (March 11th, SEC Tournament Final)
FG: 23-64 (35.9%)
3FG: 6-28 (21.4%)
Remember: This game really didn’t mean anything for the Cats as they had a #1 seed wrapped up but they played flat nonetheless. Obviously we know how that turned out in the NCAA Tournament.
2013-14: South Carolina 72, #17 Kentucky 67 (March 1st)
FG: 14-52 (26.9%)
3FG: 6-17 (35.3%)
Remember: Talk about flat. This is likely the worst regular season loss of the Calipari era. That USC team lost 20 games that season! Went 5-13 in the SEC. I’m not sure but only 14 field goals made has to be one of the worst numbers in 10 years. UK would actually lose 2 more games in March but both were to #1 Florida, so nothing bad there. Of course, this team would become national runner-up in a month.
2016-17: Florida 88, #8 Kentucky 66 (February 4th)
FG: 23-61 (37.7%)
3FG: 6-18 (33.3%)
Remember: One year ago yesterday Malik Monk was a hated man amongst many because of his laughing on the bench following a completely flat performance against the Gators. Did that team care at all was the question? Just a bunch of spoiled freshman you said. That team turned into one of the 5 best in the country by the end of the year, won 14 straight following that loss, the SEC title, and an Elite 8 run.
Now here is the problem. Is this team as good as any of those teams above? Doesn’t seem so right now. But when those losses occurred, especially in 2014 and 2017 did anybody think those teams were as good as they turned out? I am hanging on to hope for this team by a very, very thin thread and only remembering these games keeps my hopes up. Tennessee will be a great test and chance to bounce back tomorrow and all of these teams were able to do so following these bad losses. If this team can’t, I think hope could be lost.