The preseason No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats are hands down one of the most talented teams in all of college basketball, but have already fallen short of expectations. The early loss to the No. 2 Michigan State Spartans could easily be forgiven, but losses to the Baylor Bears and North Carolina Tar Heels were unacceptable from such a talented squad. Unfortunately, as the Wildcats get ready for the start of SEC play, things are not going to get any easier.
The Wildcats are obviously going to face a challenge from the Florida Gators and the Missouri Tigers, but those two ranked teams aren’t all the SEC has to offer. The SEC is the top third or fourth league in the NCAA behind the Big 12 and Big 10 when it comes to overall strength, and the LSU Tigers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Tennessee Volunteers, Ole Miss Rebels, Arkansas Razorbacks and even the Alabama Crimson Tide all have the talent to go to the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Alabama is the only team in the SEC with a losing record and even they are capable of winning the SEC.
Another issue is the play of Kentucky’s top player. Kentucky freshman Julius Randle is seen as one of the top players in college basketball and should be a top five NBA Draft pick, but his flaws are largely ignored. Yes, he’s averaging an 18 point and 11 rebound double-double a game, but in the Wildcats’ three losses Randle has a total of 14 turnovers. Kentucky’s superstar and Wooden award candidate has to clean up his play or the Wildcats might lose a lot more than just a few games in the defensively talented SEC.
In all honesty, Kentucky’s competition in the SEC is just going to be too tough. The Wildcats are clearly a top three team in the SEC, but with so many teams capable of playing top level college basketball at times, I don’t see them winning every game against the mid-range SEC teams. Kentucky is going to the 2014 NCAA Tournament and could eventually win the whole thing, but the SEC is a lot tougher than its records indicate on paper and the young Wildcats could struggle.