First, a disclaimer: I am in no way, happy, thrilled, excited, pleased or OK with the Kentucky Wildcats loss to Kansas last night.
It was a quality opponent, yes. But it was a game that Kentucky should have won at home as the Jayhawks were dangerously thin in the front court and Kentucky could not exploit it.
John Calipari got out-coached, pure and simple. And this loss is squarely on him. He did not have his team prepared, and he could not exploit the most obvious weakness in the game.
Now that I have that off my chest, I am by no means jumping on the bandwagon of the Big Blue zealots who are demanding that Calipari stop doing podcasts, stop hanging with Drake, and stop attending playoff games.
That's just stupid and petty. So stop it.
What I will say is that the margin of error is over with this team and whatever is wrong needs to be fixed. Immediately. And I will trust John Calipari to fix this. He is getting paid millions of dollars to do so, and I trust the man. I'm not even going to flood his Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook to tell him what to do.
The one thing that I am pretty sure of is that this Wildcat team can not have another slipup the rest of the way. If they do, they risk falling to a four seed or even below. And while the beauty of the NCAA Tournament is that any team can get hot and win six straight games, you need some help from the NCAA seeding committee to make it a more manageable task.
At this point, Kentucky is 1-3 in their three elite games. Granted, it could be 0-4. It could have well been 4-0. Or 3-1. The best thing I can say about this team is that as poorly as they have looked in some games thus far, you can always argue that they should have won the game. And that is a good thing with a young team such as this.
However, as I said before, the error of margin is over. Kentucky needs to finish with a perfect 10-0 record the rest of the way to ensure they get a favorable seed. As of Friday morning, Jerry Palm had Kentucky as a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. I would say that Saturday's loss bumped them to a #4. That is in a perilous area if you want to make a deep NCAA run.
As of this morning, Jerry Palm had Kentucky with an #8 RPI. Two of their losses were to #3 Kansas and #4 Louisville by a combined 9 points. That is not "the sky is falling" territory but a loss the rest of the way will hasten the hysteria.
Fortunately, it is still January and not March. And you have to keep in mind that other teams ahead of Kentucky are going to lose between now and Selection Sunday. Some of them more than once. The key is to stay steady, win every remaining game, and hopefully, everyone else gets enough losses to get you back to a #2 seed.
It's not an impossible trek. Here is a brief look at Kentucky's remaining opponents. All RPI rankings are by Jerry Palm as of Sunday morning.
January 31 - Georgia Bulldogs @ Rupp Arena : 13-8 (4-4)
February 18: @ Georgia
RPI RANK: 54 - Best win: #60 Auburn
Record vs top 50: 0-4
February 4 - Florida Gators @ Gainesville: 16-5 (6-2)
February 25 - @ Rupp Arena
RPI RANK: 9 - Best win: #29 Arkansas
Record vs top 50: 3-4
February 7 - LSU Tigers @ Rupp Arena: 9-11 (1-7)
RPI RANK: 137 - Best win : #71 Houston
Record vs Top 50: 0-4
February 11 - Alabama Crimson Tide @ Alabama: 13-7 (6-2)
RPI RANK: 70 - Best win: #54 Georgia
Record vs Top 50: 0-4
February 14 - Tennessee Volunteers @ Rupp Arena: 12-9 (4-4)
RPI RANK: 41 - Best win: #8 Kentucky
Record vs Top 50: 2-7
February 21 - Missouri Tigers @ Missouri: 5-15 (0-8)
RPI RANK: 266 - Best win: #222 Western Kentucky
Record vs Top 50: 0-5
February 28: Vanderbilt Commodores @ Rupp Arena: 10-11 (3-5)
RPI RANK: 61 - Best win: #9 Florida
Record vs Top 50: 2-7
March 4: Texas A&M Aggies @ Texas A&M: 11-9 (3-5)
RPI RANK: 80 - Best win: #39 Virginia Tech
Record vs Top 50: 1-8
It is no murderers’ row, but I do see reasons for concern. Saturday at Gainesville is a big concern, but if Kentucky gets by that, they should be OK. Going 10-0 is going to give Kentucky a 27-4 mark and possibly a 7-4 mark against top 50 teams.
That will be hard to ignore for a top 2-3 seed. As bad as the Tennessee loss seemed, it was not technically a bad loss RPI-wise.
The key is just to avoid any more setbacks like this the rest of the way.