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UK Basketball will need to embrace underdog role the remainder of the season

The Wildcats could be the underdog in 5-6 of their remaining nine games.

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi State at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky isn’t really used to being the underdog, but with a schedule that has several road games remaining against some quality teams in conference play, the Wildcats will need to embrace that mentality moving into the regular season home stretch.

To finish out the season, Kentucky has games at home versus Tennessee, Alabama, Missouri, and Ole Miss. Kentucky will likely be favored in three of those games, with Tennessee being a toss-up.

ESPN’s BPI gives Kentucky the best odds of a victory going forward on Feb. 28 when the Wildcats host the Ole Miss Rebels at 83.3 percent, currently sitting at 11-11 (4-5 SEC).

The BPI gives Kentucky an edge at home against Alabama (76.5 percent) and Missouri (74.3 percent) and a marginal nod when the Wildcats host the Volunteers (50.3 percent).

But with road games coming up in difficult arenas such as Arkansas and Texas A&M and against the likes of Auburn and Florida, Kentucky will not be a popular pick to win. Here is a list of how ESPN ranks the remaining road games in terms of Kentucky’s chances of winning.

At Missouri Tigers (Feb. 3): 42.6 percent

At Arkansas Razorbacks (Feb. 20): 40.8 percent

At Texas A&M Aggies(Feb. 10): 36.8 percent

At Florida Gators (March 3): 31.9 percent

At #11 Auburn Tigers (Feb. 14): 24.4 percent

In my opinion, I think Kentucky needs to take at least two of those remaining road games while taking care of business at home. That will start with defeating Missouri on Saturday, which seems like the best chance to steal a road win this season.

The Tigers had been struggling, coming off three consecutive losses by double-digit margins but just came away with a big road win at Alabama on Wednesday.

Outside of that, it’s hard to see Kentucky pulling off a road win at Arkansas. Calipari teams at Kentucky have historically struggled at Bud Walton Arena, and while the Razorbacks have been inconsistent this season, one could imagine that they will be hyped and ready to play when Kentucky comes to town.

It’s hard to see Kentucky pulling off victories at A&M, Florida, or Auburn too, but ideally, Kentucky would pull off one of those games in addition to defeating Missouri.

If the Wildcats were to lose all five road games, they could be staring down a 10-loss season with a less than appealing NCAA Tournament resume, especially if West Virginia continues to struggle.

The best case scenario that I can realistically jump on board with right now is taking care of the home games and pulling off three road wins, finishing the season with 7 losses. Not great, but would definitely be better than expected at some points this season.

Either way, these final nine games could reveal a lot about this team as the SEC and NCAA Tournaments draw near. Kentucky will need to embrace the role of being the underdog, come into some tough road environments, and pull out a couple wins to keep pace in a much-improved SEC.