No doubt it is fun watching this team play and I see no reason why this team should not be in the Final Four and has a legit chance at the title. But since SEC play started, its just boring to watch. South Carolina was supposed to be the “best” team the Cats have played so far and even with our best player out early in the game and Bam in foul trouble, the Cats still won by 16. Vanderbilt gave the Cats a semi-competitive game, as did Mississippi State. But never once in any of those games so far have I thought the Cats were going to lose. Never for one second. The gap in talent between UK and the rest of the SEC is pathetic. And just look at how many conference ranked opponents the Cats have played under Calipari and notice the very concerning trend:
2009-10: 6 (Tennessee (3 times), Vanderbilt (2 times), Mississippi)
2010-11: 4 (Vanderbilt (2 times), Florida (2 times))
2011-12: 3 (Florida (3 times))
2012-13: 3 (Florida (2 times), Mississippi)
2013-14: 3 (Florida (3 times))
2014-15: 2 (Arkansas (2 times))
2015-16: 1 (Texas A&M)
2016-17: 1 (South Carolina)
COMBINED: 23 (Florida-10 times, Vanderbilt-4 times, Tennessee-3 times, Arkansas-2 times, Ole Miss-2 times, Texas A&M, South Carolina)
With that said, the Cats are still very successful in these games:
17-6 overall with 3 of those losses coming to #1 Florida in the 2013-14 season.
But here is my point: this will eventually bite the Cats in the ass. Not only are they esentially playing 3 months without a quality NCAA Tournament opponent (thank god for Kansas this weekend), but their seeding can be damaged. Every loss the Cats have the remainder of the season (sans Kansas) will be considered a BAD loss. Florida will no longer be a ranked team after a 2-loss week. North Carolina can lose games, Kansas can lose games, even Villanova has more quality opponents remaining than the Cats. UK can maybe lose 1 game in conference play to get a #1 seed because they have only Kansas remaining that will be considered a quality win.
Let’s do a quick comparison of some of the other powers currently in college basketball. Just to give you a comparison of how UK is put behind the 8-ball so often in conference play. Here is how many ranked conference opponents each of these teams have played since the 2009-10 season (keep in mind UK has played 23 games):
Michigan State: 53
North Carolina: 38
Those teams are getting 2-4 more ranked conference opponents every season. That is that many opportunities to impress the committee and improve their resume and that many FEWER chances to suffer a bad loss. Kentucky only has bad losses remaining on the conference schedule which is why the Kansas game this weekend is so important. It is likely the last game UK has to put a bow on their resume. Beat the Jayhawks and you have 2 top wins and both losses being quality. It probably gives the Cats one, maybe 2, losses to suffer to remain a #1 seed.
But wouldn’t it be so much better if the conference just improved? It’s nice to win and all. It’s so much better to watch entertaining basketball from both teams though.