Last year, the Kentucky Wildcats had youth, talent, AND experience and still lost the SEC championship to a Vanderbilt Commodores team with four seniors and a junior (John Jenkins). Kentucky’s youth was supplemented by a talented senior in Darius Miller and two sophomores in Doron Lamb and Terrance Jones and STILL lost.
This year, Kentucky is missing the experienced returners and is mostly strong Freshmen. It takes a season or two to adjust to the intensity of playing in the SEC and the Freshmen recruited by John Calipari are not all always ready to give everything they have in tough games. (See the lost to Vanderbilt, again).
Many SEC teams have returning Juniors and Seniors who have been in the SEC long enough to learn how to grind out games. How might Kentucky have reacted in the overtime game to Tennessee last year without experienced leaders in Miller, Lamb, and Jones to carry them and push them in the last few minutes? Kentucky won, but would the Wildcats have won without the older more experienced players? It’s doubtful.
The SEC is too tough to anticipate the winner. Teams go on hot streaks and cannot be beaten without loads of effort. Look at Ole Miss last year; the Rebels had a terrible season and with a late push almost made it to the NCAA tournament.
The SEC is a tough league and Kentucky is not the team to win it unless the Wildcats can figure out early how to grind out close games against opponents who want to win.