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Kentucky Wildcats Morning Quickies: Historically Bad Start Edition

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After the shocking 1-6 start to the season, is there anything left for fans to cheer for? Of course, but some of our hopes have to be significantly revised.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 18 Kentucky at LSU Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Tuesday Morning Quickies.

Today, and for the last several days, I have found myself digging through the rubble of the 2020 portion of the men’s basketball season looking for a fragment of hope, although not for a national championship — those hopes are now well deceased and cadaverous, their bier overgrown and forgotten as if left untended for an age of the world — but rather for a season that doesn’t go on to be as poor as the start. So what is left to play for if not an NCAA Tournament championship?

At this point, I would settle for just getting into NCAA Tournament. Despite the horrendous start, it is not impossible for Kentucky to yet make the field of 64, although the “outs” for that hand (for you Texas Hold ‘em fans out there) are getting very few indeed. Four or fewer SEC losses plus a victory or two in the SEC Tournament (if held) would likely do. An SEC Tournament victory would certainly do it no matter what our record coming in would be. Beyond that, I’ve got nothing, though. A 1-6 start, regardless of the strength of schedule, burns up almost every bit of slack leeway in the schedule, especially in a pandemic year.

At this moment, a 12-4 or better SEC season seems... doubtful, although not totally out of the question with the SEC in a rebuilding year as a conference. Which basically leaves an SEC Tournament victory as the most likely path to the NCAA Tournament. So now, Kentucky’s focus should be on achieving a top four seed in the SEC tournament to avoid the first round and give themselves a chance. If they happen to win the league outright somehow, well, that’s just a bonus.

Despite my advancing age, I have no memory of a season like this, probably because the last time it happened, my father wasn’t even an itch in my grandfather’s pants. That’s not the kind of UK basketball history I’d hoped to see, but they say if you live long enough... Well, enough of that.

The game against Louisville did hold a few nuggets of hope. Turnover % was the second best it has been all season with only versus Notre Dame a better showing in that stat. Defensively, Kentucky was very good. Overall, the team looked more like a team and less like a bunch of talented players in a pickup game at the local YMCA. In spite of that, they still more closely resemble a high-school all-star team than a serious NCAA contender.

But sometime in the coming days, Keion Brooks Jr. should return to the floor, if he’s going to return at all this season. That will make the Kentucky rotation significantly older and deeper, and can hardly do anything but help. Usually, at this point, introducing another player can mess with the chemistry of the team, but considering this team has no discernible chemistry now, I can’t see a downside at all.

But the reality is, we must now face the long dark of the SEC season, to paraphrase Gandalf the Grey at Moria’s gate. I don’t think there’s any chance we can slip through without a major, almost unprecedented effort toward constant improvement, so we’re going to have to draw metaphorical swords and fight our way out. And a Balrog awaits...

Tweet of the Morning

And:

Well, I’ll believe it when I see it.

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More Cam’Ron:

  • Not surprised. Probably for the best.

Our state does not produce enough high-level talent that UK could win at the level to which it is accustomed with rosters dominated by homegrown players.

But you also do not have to have every roster slot filled by a future first-round NBA Draft choice to build a college team capable of winning at a high level.

He’s got a point there.

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  • The true reality of college sports as a business has been exposed by the pandemic, says Sports Illustrated. I agree to a point, but this is silly moral preening; “Oh, look at how non-egalitarian, hypocritical and corrupt college sports is!” Seriously? Are we supposed to believe that a sports publication like SI is just now noticing these things? Or that they haven’t encouraged, aided, abetted, and profited off it from its inception? Child, please.
  • Well, I have to give Richard Pitino credit for the job he’s done up north. Hopefully, he doesn’t turn out as dodgy as dear old dad.
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