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Kentucky Wildcats Morning Quickies: End of the Basketball Season Edition

Kentucky’s 2018 season ends in the Sweet Sixteen with a first-ever loss to Kansas State.

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-South Regional-Kansas State vs Kentucky Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Friday Morning Quickies — serving today as the day after the end of yet another UK basketball season.

Obviously, the big news this morning is the elimination of Kentucky from the 2018 NCAA Tournament by Kansas St. last night, 61-58. While none of us likes to see a season end short of an NCAA Tournament Championship, that outcome is profoundly more likely than the desired one. Today, it is our lot to fall short of the brass ring yet again, but it is the very difficulty of achieving victory in a 68-team single-elimination tournament that makes that outcome so desirable. Alas, it was not to be.

This UK season was a tumultuous one, both rewarding and supremely frustrating at various times throughout the year. There was the four-game losing streak which culminated in the mention of the dreaded N-word (as in NIT) as a possible destination for the callow Wildcats. Then there was the SEC Tournament run to another championship, followed by two impressive victories in the NCAA Tournament concomitant with the dramatic loss of every seed in the bracket higher than Kentucky’s, leaving UK as the top seed and favorite to get back to the Final Four from the South.

But that did not come to pass, and Kentucky goes back to Lexington with a 26-11 record and Sweet 16 finish. While that would be a raging success at 95% of the college basketball programs in the NCAA, at Kentucky it will always be a disappointment to some degree — although I consider it to be a much lesser disappointment than normal given the youth of this squad.

As to the game itself, it was hard-fought throughout with a surfeit of fouls that gave it an unpleasant quality. Kentucky played poorly, and Kansas State, to their credit, shot the ball exceedingly well from the perimeter, played undersized but high-quality defense all night and definitely deserved the victory.

But what ultimately defeated Kentucky was poor free throw shooting, in particular that of PJ Washington, who made only 8 of 20 tries for a groan-worthy 40%, as well as excess turnovers mostly by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. But before you heap blame at PJ, realize that it was his dominance in the painted area that gave Kentucky a chance to win the game at all. He finished with 18 points, 15 rebounds (6 offensive), 2 turnovers, a block and 3 steals. Great line except for that one sad statistic. With only 55% shooting from the line by PJ, Kentucky would likely have won. And without Shai, no way were we ever here at all. He just had a bad game and K-State really defended him well.

Ah, what might have been — the story of a Kentucky fan’s existence, and grief, most years at this time. Well, there’s always next year, and if most of this year’s team returns (as is widely expected), we may have one of the best teams in several years at Kentucky for 2019.

Next year. You know the drill.

Tweets of the Morning

Oh, it’s real, sweetheart. Sad, yes, but all too real.

Heh. Yeah, well, just imagine if you’d watched the game.

And people wonder how he does it.


Your Quickies:

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It was almost like a gift for a team that was playing its best basketball at the end of the year, but reverted and wasted the opportunity. The ones you remember are the ones that got away.

But John Clay makes a great point — Kansas St. really took Shai Gilgeous-Alexander away from us, and other teams that have done that have beaten us this season. Seems to me they watched the film.

  • I’m not sure about this. Waiting for the other team to finish celebrating so you can shake their hand isn’t really part of the deal. I’d have to review the tape to see if it was poor sportsmanship, or just one of those things.
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