The Kentucky Wildcats entered Tuesday’s contest against the Duke Blue Devils with 4 wins in the Champions Classic. But, the Cats also have 3 losses. How did UK’s seasons unfold after losing the season opener?
Since 2011, the Champions Classic has been a fun way to kick off the college basketball season with four of the blue bloods of college basketball. Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, and Michigan State have all seen their share of wins and losses through the years.
After beating Kansas in the inaugural year of t-he Champions Classic, the Cats fell to the Blue Devils the following at the Georgia Dome 68-75. So, how did that season work out for Kentucky?
Well, the 2012-13 season was not Kentucky’s finest hour. Having won the National Championship the year before, expectations were high for John Calipari’s squad. Afterall, they landed highly-touted recruit Nerlens Noel and were returning sophomore shooter Kyle Wiltjer.
As Big Blue Nation knows all too well, that season fell apart pretty quickly. The slow start stuck with the Cats until the end the year, as a 3-point loss on December 29th to arch rival Louisville dropped the Cats to 8-4.
A season-ending injury to Noel, missing the NCAA Tournament, and a first-round exit to Robert Morris in the NIT is not what UK fans expected from their defending National Champion Wildcats.
The Cats took it on the chin again the following year in the Champions Classic when they lost a 74-78 heartbreaker to Tom Izzo’s Spartans. Fortunately for Kentucky, the end result was much better.
After a shaky start to the 2013-14 season, the Cats got their act together and finished strong. Led by Julius Randle and the Harrison twins, Kentucky turned a 24-10 season into a near National Championship.
After losing to Florida by one point in the SEC Championship. UK marched past their opponents in the NCAA Tournament, as Aaron Harrison knocked down game-winner, after game-winner, after game-winner.
The Cats’ magic finally ran out when they went up against UConn and their talented point guard Shabazz Napier The Wildcats lost in the National Championship Game 54-60.
After rattling off three consecutive wins in the Champions Classic, Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks took down the Cats last year in a low scoring affair. KU walked away with a 65-61 win.
I think all of Big Blue Nation remembers the roller coaster ride that was last season. Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander gave Cats’ fans everything they had night in and night out.
The high point for last year’s team was the SEC Championship. The 77-72 victory over a talented Tennessee team gave the Cats a boost of confidence heading into March Madness.
However, after getting nothing short of a cakewalk draw to the Final Four, Kentucky squandered away their chance when they fell to the No. 8 seed Kansas State Wildcats in the Sweet Sixteen. That one hurt.
So, the Champions Classic is a mixed bag and isn’t the best barometer for how the Wildcats’ season will play out. Regardless, it’s always better to get a win, especially over the competition that awaits them in tip-off event of the college basketball season.