After beginning the season as a 1-seed in Joe Lunardi of ESPN’s bracketology, entering Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats had slid all the way down to the Next Four Out as they came into Knoxville with a 10-6 record, no significant wins, and an embarrassing Quad 4 home loss against South Carolina.
Their 63-56 win in Thompson-Boling Arena came just in time—it might’ve saved their season. With a monster top-five road win on their resume, they’ll surely be back in the bracket come the next update, but with 14 regular-season games left there’s still a lot of work left to do before March.
#1. Win the homestand
We just saw against a top-5 team that the ‘Cats can play. Can they do it against the rest of the league? Georgia and Texas A&M next week are no creampuffs, and certainly no worse than South Carolina. Gotta turn one win into three (or at least two!) or it won’t count for much.
#2. Show the other ranked opposition Knoxville wasn’t an anomaly
NCAA Tournament teams (and especially ones that are threats to make it to the second weekend) have big wins, but not just one. UK has to beat at least one more ranked team before the bracket is revealed. They get a rematch with the Vols, two bouts with Arkansas, and a home tilt with Auburn before the SEC Tournament—all are within reach now. Not to mention the Kansas game on the 28th...
#3. Win at least 9 more games before the SEC Tournament
There are 14 games left before Bridgestone Arena, and the Cats need to hit the 20-win mark before then to snuggle safely inside the field of 68 with a favorable seed & not be flirting with the First Four as they play a Quad 3 team in their first SEC Tournament game or something. There are a lot of teams to still play in the SEC and a lot of victories to achieve—especially at home.
Now let’s celebrate and hope the momentum carries them all the way to the Final Four in a couple of months!