With the Kentucky Wildcats off to a slow 10-5 start to the season, 1-1 in Southeastern Conference play, I thought it would be interesting to examine previous UK squads -- since the NCAA tourney expanded to 64 teams in 1985 -- who have started the year by losing five of its first 15 games.
We'll take a look at important players lost from the previous season, each team's good wins from their first 10 games, the first five losses, and key individual and team statistics.
Players lost from previous season: Leading scorer and rebounder, All-American Kenny Walker (20.0 points per game, 7.7 rebounds per game), along with Winston Bennett to a torn ACL (12.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg), and ace assist man Roger Harden (6.8 ppg, and a then-UK record 232 assists - 6.4 assists per game).
Previous season's results: 32-4, 17-1 in SEC -- Kentucky won the SEC tourney, and earned a No. 3 seed in the Big Dance where the 'Cats lost in the Elite Eight to unranked No. 11 seed LSU, 59-57, a team the 'Cats had beaten three times during the year. UK's final ranking: No. 3.
Preseason ranking: No. 11.
Final ranking: Unranked.
Good wins from the first 10: At Louisville, 85-51; at No. 5 Auburn, 63-60; at Mississippi State, 57-49.
The first five losses: At No. 3 Indiana, 71-66; versus unranked Georgia at Freedom Hall, 69-65; at home versus unranked Alabama, 69-55; at unranked Tennessee, 75-68; at home versus unranked LSU, 76-41.
Final record and post season tourney outcomes: 18-11, 10-8 in SEC -- After starting the year with a 10-5 record, the 'Cats ended the season with an 8-6 mark, losing in the first round of the SEC Tournament to unranked Auburn, 79-72. UK received a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tourney, losing to unranked Ohio State, 91-77, in the Round of 64.
1987 stat leaders
- Freshman Rex Chapman - King Rex led the 'Cats in scoring and assists with 16.0 points per game and 3.6 assists per contest.
- Junior Ed Davender - Davender averaged 15.2 points per game and shot 73.8 percent from the free throw line (107-145). He also led the team with 2.7 turnovers per game.
- Junior Richard Madison - The "Master Blaster" led the Wildcats in rebounds, averaging 7.6 boards per game, and was third in scoring with 9.1 points per contest.
- Senior James Blackmon - The Hoosier state product averaged 8.4 points per game, and led the squad with 1.7 steals per contest.
- Junior Rob Lock - Lock chipped in with 7.5 points per contest, and led the team in blocks with 1.1 swats per game.
- Freshman Derrick Millar - UK's top long-range bomber connected on 43.2 percent of his 3-point attempts (35-81).
Vital team and opponent stats
Field goal percentage: UK 46.8, Opp. 47.5
3-point shooting percentage: UK 37.2, Opp. 36.4
Free throw percentage: UK 62.7, Opp. 71.0
Rebounds per game: UK 31.1, Opp. 33.2
Assists per game: UK 13.3, Opp. 13.1
Turnovers per game: UK 15.2, Opp. 15.8
Steals per game: UK 7.1, Opp. 6.3
Blocks per game: UK 2.7, Opp. 2.5
Players lost from previous season: Leading scorer and rebounder, All-American Scott Padgett (12.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg), as well as second leading scorer Heshimu Evans (11.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg), third leading scorer, point guard (10.5 ppg, 3.9 apg), and fourth leading scorer (9.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg), who transferred to Villanova.
Previous season's results: 28-9, 11-5 in SEC -- UK won the SEC tournament, garnering a No. 3 seed in the NCAAs where the Wildcats lost to No. 1 seed Michigan State (ranked No. 2 in the nation) in the Elite Eight, 73-66. UK's final ranking: No. 8.
Preseason ranking: No. 14
Final ranking: No. 19
Good wins from the first 10: At home versus No. 16 Utah in the Preseason NIT, 56-48; versus No. 22 Maryland in New York in the Preseason NIT, 61-58; at home versus No. 5 Michigan State, 60-58; versus unranked Missouri in the Sugar Bowl Classic in New Orleans, 70-53; versus unranked Georgia Tech in Freedom Hall, 80-71.
The first five losses: Versus No. 8 Arizona in the Preseason NIT championship game, 63-51; versus unranked Dayton in Cincinnati, 68-66; versus No. 23 Indiana in Indianapolis, 83-75; at No. 21 Maryland, 72-66; at No. 4 Auburn, 66-63.
Final record and post season tourney outcomes: 23-10, 12-4 in SEC -- After its 10-5 start to the season, Kentucky ended the year winning 13 of its final 18 games. The Wildcats lost in the first round of the SEC tourney to unranked Arkansas, and received a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament where the 'Cats beat St. Bonaventure in the Round of 64, 85-80 in double-overtime, before losing to No. 16 Syracuse, 52-50, in the Round of 32.
2000 stat leaders
- Sophomore Tayshaun Prince led the Wildcats in scoring at 13.3 points per contest.
- Senior Jamal Magloire was second on the team in scoring at 13.2 points per game, and led UK in rebounds, with 9.1 per game, field goal percentage, making 50.0 percent of his shots (148-296), and blocks, averaging 1.7 per game.
- Freshman Keith Bogans was third on the squad in scoring, averaging 12.5 points. Bogans also led the 'Cats in steals, averaging 1.4 thefts per game.
- Sophomore Desmond Allison averaged 7.6 points, and was the team's leading free throw shooter making 53-of-68 from the stripe (77.9 percent).
- Junior Saul Smith lead UK in assists, dishing out 3.5 dimes per game.
- Sophomore JP Blevins led Kentucky in 3-point shooting as the Bowling Green High School product connected on 29-of-81 from distance (35.8 percent).
Vital team and opponent stats
Field goal percentage: UK 42.3, Opp. 39.0
3-point percentage: UK 29.2, Opp. 32.6
Free throw percentage: UK 68.8, Opp. 64.6
Rebounds per game: UK 39.3, Opp. 34.5
Assists per game: UK 12.9, Opp. 10.7
Turnovers per game: UK 15.1, Opp. 14.2
Steals per game: UK 6.1, Opp. 6.9
Blocks per game: UK 5.6, Opp. 2.0
Players lost from the previous season: All SEC player Chuck Hayes, who led Kentucky in rebounding (7.7 rpg) and was second on the squad in scoring (10.9 ppg), as well as unexpected early entry Kelenna Azubuike, the team's leading scorer (14.7 ppg), and reserve Josh Carrier (1.0 ppg).
Previous season's results: 28-6, 14-2 in SEC -- The Wildcats lost the SEC tourney championship game to Florida, 70-53. The 'Cats were then awarded a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament where they lost to No. 5 seed Michigan State (ranked No. 15 in nation) in the Elite Eight, 94-88, in double-overtime. UK's final ranking: No. 7.
Preseason ranking: No. 8
Final ranking: Unranked
Good wins from the first 10: Versus No. 13 West Virginia in the Guardian's Classic at Kansas City, Missouri, 80-66; at home versus No. 4 Louisville, 73-61.
The first five losses: Versus No. 18 Iowa in the Guardian's Classic, 67-63; at home versus unranked North Carolina, 83-79; versus No. 18 Indiana at Indianapolis, 79-53; at unranked Kansas, 73-46; at home versus unranked Vanderbilt, 57-52.
Final record and post season tourney outcomes: 22-13, 9-7 in SEC -- Kentucky ended the season by winning 12 games and losing eight, after beginning the year, 10-5. UK lost in the third round of the SEC tourney to unranked South Carolina, 65-61, and received a No. 8 seed in the Big Dance. The 'Cats beat UAB in the Round of 64, 69-64, before falling to No. 2 ranked/No. 1 seed Connecticut, 87-83.
2006 stat leaders
- Sophomore Randolph Morris, who missed the first 14 games of the year due to his relationship with an agent, led UK in scoring with 13.3 point per game, and was second on the team in rebounding, averaging 6.0 boards per contest. Morris also led Kentucky in field goal shooting, making 60.8 percent of his attempts (110-181), and blocks with 1.1 per game.
- Sophomore Rajon Rondo was second on the team in scoring, averaging 11.2 points per game, and first on the squad in rebounding, grabbing 6.1 boards per contest. Rondo also put up exceptional assist numbers, averaging 4.9 dimes per game, and was responsible for 69 steals (2.0 spg).
- Sophomore Joe Crawford was third on the team in scoring with 10.2 points per game.
- Senior Patrick Sparks was UK's best 3-point shooter, making 38.6 percent of his long-distance bombs on the year (69-179), and was Kentucky's fourth leading scorer with 9.7 points per game.
- Sophomore Ramel Bradley averaged 7.9 points per game (fifth on team).
- Junior Bobby Perry tossed in 7.1 points per contest (sixth on team), and led the 'Cats by making 82.2 percent of his free throws (37-45).
Vital team and opponent stats
Field goal percentage: UK 44.7, Opp. 42.5
3-point percentage: UK 35.0, Opp. 32.6
Free throw percentage: UK 67.6, Opp. 67.6
Rebounds per game: UK 36.1, Opp. 33.3
Assists per game: UK 14.4, Opp. 12.8
Turnovers per game: UK 13.2, Opp. 13.5
Steals per game: UK 5.9, Opp. 5.3
Blocks per game: UK 3.0, Opp. 3.4
Pre-1985 10-5 starts
Adolph Rupp had two squads start the season 10-5. The first, in 1960, saw the 'Cats end the season with an 18-7 mark, 10-4 in the SEC. The 'Cats did not participate in any post season tournaments (there was no SEC tournament). Again in 1963 Kentucky began the season 10-5 on its way to a 16-9 regular season mark, 8-6 in the SEC. UK did not participate in any post season tourneys.
To the Herald-Leader's John Clay for being named Kentucky Sportswriter of the Year. An honor much deserved.
Thanks for reading and Go 'Cats!
To follow me on Twitter: @KenHowlett