I don't think anyone would dispute that the Kentucky Wildcats have had a very successful regular season. As we are now on the cusp of that most exciting time of year, the post-season, the time has come to think about the expectations of the Big Blue Nation.
Revisiting this post from back earlier this year, it seems to me that most Kentucky fans who read A Sea of Blue had a pretty good handle when asked the question, "How many REGULAR SEASON games will the basketball Wildcats win this year?"
So now that we know the answer to that one, it's time to ask the follow-on that most non-Kentucky fans tend to ask; "What does success look like for this team in the post season?" Do we rationally expect to win a national championship, get to the Final Four, the Elite Eight, what? At what point would disappointment kick in, and at what point would "I didn't think we could get this far" start cropping up?
More after the jump.I'll start by just spilling out my thoughts on the matter, and I'll address both the SEC and NCAA tournaments.
For the SEC tournament, anything less than the finals would be troubling. In the finals, it is possible that UK will wind up facing an opponent who needs the game much more than Kentucky does to salvage its post season hopes. Teams like that will often play well above their heads, and the Wildcats could potentially have motivational problems for that game, especially since it falls on Selection Sunday. I could live with a loss in the finals, but I would be most unhappy with a loss in the first two games.
For the NCAA tournament, the inflection point is probably the Elite Eight. I will be disappointed in an elite eight, but I will be a very slightly surprised if Kentucky makes it to the Final Four. So I guess the point is really just beyond the Elite Eight, but since there is no such place, we can call that the point at which this becomes a good post-season that I can be happy with.
A lot of Kentucky's success will depend upon its draw in the NCAA tournament. Even though the high probability is for a #1 seed, this UK team reminds me a bit of the 2005-06 Connecticut Huskies. That team had big, fast, talented players, and they only lost 2 games in the regular season. They were a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and were nearly undone by a game UK team in the second round thanks to a career game by Patrick Sparks. That Huskies team had similar problems from the perimeter, but they were much more experienced and somewhat less talented. Their bench, though, was all full of talented freshmen.
Connecticut's talent was superior to almost everyone, yet they were unlucky enough to run up against a George Mason Patriots team that was muy caliente, and they burned the Huskies in the Elite Eight in a very close game. Could that be the fate of the 2010 Wildcats? I hope not. It would be painful, but tolerable. Anything less, for me, would be agony of varying degrees.
So now, Big Blue Nation, you know where I stand. Where does your threshold of pain lie?