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Kentucky Wildcats Morning Quickies: Past To Future Edition

How Kentucky got from 6-7 in the SEC to a #5 seed is the definition of success, and maturation.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament Championship-Tennessee vs Kentucky Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Tuesday Morning Quickies. Today, we’ll be having a quick look at where we are, and how we got here. Sherman, set the WayBack Machine to February 14th, 2018...

The Setup

Waking up the morning after the Auburn game, there was the feeling of dread — that uncomfortable, negative, doomsday sort of itch that something you look forward to is disappointingly not happening this year.

The team was young, yes, and Auburn was good, but this was the historic fourth loss in a row — something that hasn’t happened at Kentucky in almost a decade, and never in the tenure of John Calipari, even in the disastrous NIT season of 2013.

The Awakening

It was hard to see Alabama as a win, even at home, after the Auburn game. The Tide were just coming off a throttling of LSU in Tuscaloosa, and Kentucky was limping back to Rupp Arena off four straight losses, the last two by convincing margins. But the Wildcats cooled off the Tide’s hot shooting and dominated them on the glass, coming away with the win that would start an avalanche of success, comparatively speaking.

The Roll

The Wildcats rolled into Budd Walton Arena to face the hungry Arkansas Razorbacks, who had suffered at the hands of Kentucky for going on four years, losing six straight to UK. The Hogs’ last victory was back in 2014 in overtime at Rupp Arena.

But the Razorbacks would go down under an onslaught of Kentucky offensive efficiency and devastating rebounding differential.

The Wildcats had their best game since late January in that one, and with sudden newfound scoring, ballhandling and rebounding, Missouri and Ole Miss also fell in Rupp under the mounting focus and confidence of a young team only two weeks removed from a very dark place.

The trip to Florida was a step back, and the Gators swept Kentucky for the season by forcing them into their highest turnover rate since the first week of February, and shooting lights-out from three, something UK had been among the best in the country at preventing.

The Final Push

As Kentucky came into the SEC tournament, many wondered if the Florida game was reversion to the mean, and if the mean would be the norm for the rest of the season. Alas for Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, it was not. Kentucky crushed the first two, then defeated Tennessee in a classic, hard-fought battle with the SEC co-champion of the regular season. It was reminiscent of the days of yore against the Arkansas Razorbacks when Nolan Richardson and Rick Pitino stalked the sidelines.

Back to the Future

So here we are, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, once again about to embark on an NCAA Tournament journey. Some people are upset about our bracket, but not me — I have come to conclude that if you want to truly prove your mettle, you have to take on all comers without prejudice or fear. At this point in my life, I don’t care much how deep Kentucky goes if it doesn’t win. If the first or second round is it, fine — next year will be better. With a team this young, just getting to a #5 seed from 17-9 overall and 6-7 in the league was as satisfying as anything other than an NCAA title.

So let’s quit complaining about our misfortune and the eeeevil NCAA conspirators, and see what a painfully young team can do when it finds its mojo on the biggest stage of all.

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