SEC Tournament preview: Part I

Well, whether you think it mercifully over or unfortunately not longer, another Wildcats regular season is in the books. This one, however, won't be one to tell the kids about.

After a couple of tough losses early on and a nice run against some decent, albeit midmajor, competition -- EKU (in), UMass, Santa Clara and Miami (OH) all have a chance to make the NCAA tournament -- the meat of the season hit, and the Cats never really figured out their identity.

Particularly brutal were a loss at Georgia in January in which UK led comfortably and then tossed, fouled and clanked their way to a demoralizing road loss that I believe, more than any other single game, torpedoed their season. Losses like that instill little doubts and seeds of future defeats.

Contrary to the rosy view I and other fans who trend toward the optimistic side took about the team, the results speak for themselves.

Nine conference wins, but none over ranked SEC teams -- Ole Miss, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina (twice), Tennessee at Rupp, LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn. Losses to Alabama, Florida (twice), at Tennessee, Vanderbilt (twice) and the aforementioned Georgia. In short, a mediocre record given the top-heavy talent on the UK roster.

But now we turn to the next stage, the most important one. And this stage is taking on new importance after last week's acknowledgement by the UK A.D. Mitch Barnhardt that the hoops flagship would be under review after the season, and that how the team ends the year (read: tournament run) would have a lot of impact on how the year is judged.

Kentucky's tepid campaign earned them the fourth seed in the East, and a first-round date with fellow underachiever Alabama. That's hradly a reward, and justly so.

If the Cats can get their act together enough to move past a game that the Tide desperately needs to win, they would face surging Mississippi State, who rallied to claim a share of the SEC West crown.

There is no more room for error, no room for Randolph Morris' fleeting interest in paying attention and no room for Tubby's mystifying substitutions (or lack thereof).

There's only Thursday, and Alabama and a probably date with another middle-of-the-road major conference team and then a long, tough look at the current basketball situation.

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