The No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats dropped their second game of the season to the No. 20 Baylor Bears after starting the season with murmurs of a “40-and-0” season. The loss was disappointing mostly because they had control at the beginning of the game, but it brings up this question: what if the preseason No. 1 Wildcats aren’t actually that good?
After starting the season ranked No. 1, the Wildcats have lost to every good team that they’ve played so far. Their best win has come against the Providence Friars, who were picked to finish sixth in the Big East. Superstar Julius Randle has impressed, but his turnovers are what led to the loss against the Michigan State Spartans and the close game against Cleveland State.
If Kentucky cannot beat ranked opponents, then they are going to struggle against the No. 7 Louisville Cardinals, the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Belmont Bruins, who they play back-to-back to finish their non-conference schedule. If they can’t win these games, they won’t have any marquee non-conference wins going into an extremely difficult SEC.
The SEC isn’t as top-heavy as other leagues, but they have a lot of talented teams. The Florida Gators are looking a lot better with Scottie Wilbekin back, the Ole Miss Rebels and Missouri Tigers are still undefeated, the Tennessee Volunteers sometimes look like they could be that streaky team that sneaks into the Final Four and both the LSU Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide have the talent to pull off major upsets.
Kentucky is going to have a hard time looking impressive enough for a 2014 Tournament berth in SEC play if they don’t play better, because the SEC is one of the most difficult conferences in the country.
Fortunately, I don’t believe that Kentucky is actually that bad; the young Wildcats will continue to get better as the season goes along. John Calipari has proven that he is a master at bringing young, inexperienced teams together. This team still has more talent than 99 percent of college basketball teams, and eventually they have to click in a big game.
However, because of the fiasco that was Kentucky’s absence from the 2013 NCAA Tournament after starting the season No. 3 last season, the possibility of missing out on yet another tournament has to be rattling in the back of Calipari, the Wildcats’ players and every Kentucky fan’s minds. Kentucky needs to get it together, because their schedule isn’t getting any easier any time soon.