It wasn't pretty.
In a very winnable game, this season's Wildcats renewed their penchant for grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory. As a fan, you hope that it is mostly the mistakes of youth and inexperience (though some of these guys have played a lot). As a avid basketball observer, you worry it's more of a weak mental state.
Regardless, the Cats are home watching Florida defend its SEC title rather than get another shot at toppling the Gators. So be it. The game is over now, and it's time to look to the future, and a spot in the big dance.
For the Wildcats to have a shot at the Sweet 16 -- and, frankly, I think at this stage most UK fans would be plenty pleased if this year's Cats could make it to the second weekend -- they will have to correct a few things that have plagued them all year. And it's hard to do such a thing.
No more can they shoot 1-for-10 in the opening minutes. A Bradley, Syracuse or Bucknell will bury them if they do that. And it's not enough to blame it on an offensively challenged Woo-Stockton-Perry starting lineup. We got the McDonald's All-Americans back in there, and they have to deliver from the opening bell.
No more can the Cats resort to shooting threes instead of sending it in down low to Morris. Even if a few go in, it sets a tone that it seems takes whole sections of the game to correct, and that's not good in a "lose and go home" situation. Morris is the UK offense, effectively. Anything else, including most of Joe Crawford's points, comes outside the offense, it seems. It also lets Morris establish a physical presence in the lane, an intangible that helps tremendously in keeping him out of foul trouble.
No more can the Wildcats fritter away a late 5-point advantage as they seem to have done in nearly all their games -- win or lose -- for the past month. They had South Carolina on the ropes and a combination of Sheray Thomas and poor decision-making turned that into a 3-point deficit in a matter of minutes.
No more can they wait for Patrick Sparks to get hot. The Cats must become the aggressors on offense. Sparks is most effective coming off the screen, and when the other UK players have to actually be guarded to give Sparks some room to breathe, much less shoot. As much as we love his 30-footers, they don't always go in, and the margin for error is nil come tourney time.
No more can Tubby Smith try and get production out of unproductive players for 10-minute stretches, though this "no more" is the last likely to be rectified. Face it, this is Tubby's style. And when it works, we love him for it. To wit, Shagari Alleyne's star turn in the first half against Bama. But where was Ramel Bradley in the second half against USC? Guy was unguardable, the only man is blue and white to be so, for stretches in the first frame, and nowhere to be found in the second.
Without an opponent announced, the Cats have to hope they get a local venue. A little home crowd wouldn't hurt, especially if they get a high seed in Game 2 (assuming they can get to Game 2).
For now, it's enough to stop thinking about what didn't work, and start thinking about what has to.