[Editor's Note: Greg is busy tonight, so treat this article as an open thread for the game}
These next couple of weeks will sort out the women from the girls. No prisoners. No holding back, and no taking any time off. These games will determine the approach for the UK women for the rest of the season. Let's look closely and see where this might lead.
Thursday night, UK faces South Carolina at home in the second game of their 2013 series. UK took it on the chin the last time in Columbia, 55-50. Dawn Staley brought her girls out to play, and she had them ready to punish. South Carolina's bruising style of play is enough to make even the calmest of fans infuriated by game's end, so I cannot imagine what the players and coaches will be feeling.
South Carolina does not just hip check you on a pick, they pound you. Their physical style of play is as hard nosed as it gets. They don't just body up on you, they will pancake block you and then step on you as you fall. They want a scrappy, chippy, and borderline mean game when they play you.
Kentucky will need everything they have to put South Carolina away. As of this week, they have moved into the #16 ranking on the AP poll. And they are a legitimate threat to anyone they play, as the score in Columbia indicates. Kentucky moved back to #9, and they don't want that ranking to go any lower. A #1 Seed in the tournament is gone, but if UK wants a #2, they will have to win out the SEC regular season.
Kentucky will have to hit a lot of shots, take a lot of hits, and out-muscle South Carolina for a win. South Carolina is going to resist this process. UK will have to overcome that. Hopefully being back in the friendly confines of Memorial will help put them over the top.
And just as soon as that game is over, they will be preparing to go to College Station, Texas where they will have to take on Texas A&M on their home court on Monday Feb, 18th at 7PM. A&M is now ranked right behind Kentucky in the #11 spot. Are you seeing a pattern here, folks? The SEC has become a minefield in women's basketball. There are now five ranked squads in the Top #25, and they all run from #9 to #16.
A&M gave UK all they wanted the last time out in Lexington, so I will have to assume that College Station is going to be a difficult outing. A&M plays tough defense, and loves to control their opponents' movement. Gary Blair is going to have Kelsey Bone pounding on every player that comes inside, and at 6'4" she can do it. She gave DeNesha Stallworth and Samarie Walker fits the last time out, so expect more of the same.
There are just not going to be anymore easy games folks. South Carolina this week, A&M and LSU next week, and then we finish the week following with Ole Miss and Tennessee. That's 3 ranked opponents out of 5 in 20 days. I don't know about anyone else, but I am going to be one tired Wildcat by the time April gets here.
It's do or die time folks. No, UK is not going to be "On The Bubble" if they lose in any of these next 5 games. Their place in the tournament is solid. It's the seeding that suffers. The hopes of getting to that Final Four or even more rest on these games. The opponents will be tough, however none more so than who we will face in the tournament if we go where we want to be.