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Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: SEC Slate Offers Few Litmus Tests

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There’s only one thing the Wildcats can do in the SEC in order to look good coming out: Dominate.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

After their tough three-game non-conference slate, the Kentucky Wildcats ended 1-2, one win shy of what I predicted. I had figured Kentucky would beat both Louisville and UCLA while losing to North Carolina, but the opposite happened as the Tar Heels provided the one win.

There are still questions surrounding this basketball team:

  • Can the defense improve?
  • Can Wenyen Gabriel or Derek Willis ever take ownership of the power forward spot?
  • Can John Calipari trust the bench?
  • Who picks up the slack if Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox, or both are having an off scoring night?
  • Will the guards ever learn to incorporate Bam Adebayo into the offense effectively?

We know that the ‘Cats can blow out bad teams on a regular basis and they keep it close when they face good competition because of the above-mentioned questions. What are they going to do when they face the average-to-below-average SEC teams night in and night out? And what can we learn from the team when it is all said and done after the SEC tournament?

Being completely honest, there is nothing that Kentucky can do but hurt themselves in the SEC. When seeding happens in March, the committee won’t put too much stock in the ‘Cats if they lose only one or two conference games, provided if those losses are only at Florida or Texas A&M. But if the ‘Cats lose more than two games in conference, the tournament committee will absolutely punish them for it.

The best case scenarios for Kentucky moving forward in regards to the tournament and the SEC are if they win out and beat Kansas, or if they lose at Florida or A&M but also beat Kansas. If either of these two scenarios happens, then we know Kentucky is improving, and they would be worthy of either a one, two or three seed. With the current resume, a two or three-seed is most likely.

Unfortunately, UK does not have the luxury of an ACC or B1G schedule to provide multiple tests as the season progresses. This is why the Kansas game in January is so important and why it is imperative that Florida remains a top 25 team.

Dropping games at Georgia, Mississippi State, or Tennessee would be extremely disappointing considering that we all think this team has Final Four potential. But in order to reach that potential, they have to answer the bell in SEC play and do so in dominating fashion.

Will there be a few close road games in there throughout? Yes, but they have to win them, and there must be no doubt which was the better team when the game is over.

It all starts Thursday night against an Ole Miss team that is 9-3 without one quality win on their schedule and a couple of bad losses. This will be UK’s second true road test of the season coming off of losing their first one at Louisville. It is important to get out of Oxford with a convincing win.