Washington, Maryland, UConn, Tennessee. All were in the bottom half of the top 25, and all lost at least once this week. What does that mean for UK as it takes the floor tonight at 7 p.m. ET against Mississippi St.? Opportunity.
Despite Tubby Smith's protestations, with a win, this Kentucky team would deserve a ranking. Seeking its 10th straight, with an RPI in the top 10 and a strength of schedule approaching No. 1, there are fewer and fewer teams one can argue deserve it more. The Cats' losses? Nos. 1, 4 and 20. Why all the punishment? How long will these Cats have to pay for last year's "atrocious" 22-13 plus NCAA second round year?
And folks wonder why Big Blue Nation has a complex.
Mississippi State offers a stiffer test than did Auburn or Ole Miss, but not a test that UK isn't capable of passing. Much depends on their mindset, intensity and a continuation of Wednesday's improved offensive flow.
Truz gives us a better look at the Bulldogs in his pre-game writeup. Unlike recent opponents, this Bulldogs team has legitimate weapons.
For the Cats to get a chance at a ranking, and to continue their win streak, they'll need to defend like they have been and get performances from Joe Crawford and Perry Stevenson similar to those vs. Auburn. not too much to ask, is it?
What to look for:
* Triple threat: Both teams feature players who have flirted with the ever-elusive triple-double lately -- Jamont Gordon for MSU and Ramel Bradley for UK. Both players can change the game with their passing, though Bradley is a stronger shooter while Gordon is a more formidable inside player.
* 'O' boards, you devil: State is strong on the offensive glass, a real Achilles heel for the Cats. For the Cats to prevail, it may be key for Morris and Stevenson or Bobby Perry to emerge on the defensive glass. Limiting second chances will be something to focus on.
* Joe Cool: What was Kentucky missing for much of the early season? Not rebounding, and not defense, surprisingly. It was a reliable third scorer. Crawford's back-to-back 20-point outings (a first in his Big Blue career) make Cats fans giddy with possibilities. Continued Crawford could mean continued winning for UK.
Probable starting lineupsKentucky
PG: Derrick Jasper (6'6"/213 Fr.) 5.1 ppg, 3.4 apg
SG: Ramel Bradley (6'3"/175 Jr.) 13.6 ppg, 3.7 apg
3G: Joe Crawford (6'5"/211 Jr.) 13.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg
C: Randolph Morris (6'11"/259 Jr.) 16.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg
SF: Bobby Perry (6'9"/215 Sr.) 7.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg
F Perry Stevenson, F Sheray Thomas, F Ramon Harris, C Lukasz Obrzut, G Jodie Meeks, G Michael Porter
PG: Ben Hansbrough (6'3"/200 Fr.) 7.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg
SG: Reginald Delk (6'4"/175 So.) 9.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg
C: Jarvis Varnado (6'9"/195 Fr.) 6.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg
F: Richard Delk (6'4"/175 So.) 7.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg
F: Jamont Gordon (6'4"/225 So.) 15.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg
Charles Rhodes (F), Barry Stewart (G), Dietric Slater (G-F), Vernon Goodridge (F)