With the Gators and Wildcats being down for the last several years, the SEC has struggled to gain its footing nationally. Tennessee and Bruce Pearl make a nice story, sure, but they are nothing compared to the vaunted Wildcats.
This is the cold, hard truth that the rest of the SEC doesn’t want to acknowledge.
When it comes to basketball, UK is the SEC. The SEC needs a dominant Kentucky in order to be relevant. Much like the ACC needs FSU in order to remain relevant in the BCS of Football. It’s the natural order.
Get used to it.
Kentucky is back. Coach Cal will keep UK at the top. More than likely, Cal will stay 8 to 10 years which means that Mitch Barnhart should should be keeping an eye out for a successor. It’s too early to bring in an assistant. Two or three years down the line, Cal should start looking for someone to whom he can hand the reins. Recruit this young and talented coach to the bench at UK and start his training to take over. Unlike Tubby Smith, Cal selects young and enthusiastic talent for his bench. No re-treads on the bench under Coach Cal. Keep that bench full of young hungry assistant and associate coaches. Hopefully, Cal finds a few ex-players from UK teams to carry the torch after he leaves.
2018 or so, Cal can hand the reins over to a pre-selected individual. No coaching searches. No guessing. Simply a seamless turn over. This is how it should be done.
UK reloads and keeps rocking the SEC and the NCAA.
This week’s question: Which team currently outside the top 25 has the best chance to make a long run in the NCAA tournament?
Greg Antony’s answer:
I’m going with Kentucky. The Wildcats started slow last season, but really came on under Billy Gillispie in the second half of the season despite losing Patrick Patterson late. This season, they’re younger, but I think they’re better defensively. And with Jodie Meeks emerging as one of the best players in the nation, they are explosive offensively. Perry Stevenson anchors the defense, and getting Ramon Harris back in the rotation gives them some experience in the frontcourt. Two things have to happen for the Wildcats to really be dangerous. First, they have to cut down on their turnovers. They can extend their pressure defensively and force teams to try and play in the half court, where their quickness and athleticism can be more of a factor. Second, some of their younger players have to become more consistent because depth always is important in the tournament. This is a team that features two players capable of carrying them offensively. The ‘Cats may be back!
Jason King’s answer:
Kentucky may not be one of the best teams in the country, but the Wildcats have two of the nation’s best players – and maybe its best coach. Well on his way to SEC Coach of the Year honors for the second consecutive season, Billy Gillispie is someone opponents hope to stay away from in March. Along with being one of the best Xs and Os guys in college basketball, Gillispie’s teams always are disciplined. They play hard and they play smart. The favorite to win the SEC title, Kentucky should enter this season’s NCAA tournament high on momentum. The Wildcats may not be able match most of their opponents’ depth, but not many schools have two future first-round NBA picks in their starting lineup. Guard Jodie Meeks, who has eclipsed the 30-point barrier six times, is a national player of the year candidate. Forward Patrick Patterson is one of the most skilled big men in the country, and wing Perry Stevenson is no slouch. Still, the biggest difference-maker for Kentucky wears a suit and tie and stands on the sideline. With Gillispie, the Wildcats always have a chance.
Steve Megargee’s answer:
Conventional wisdom suggests you can’t go far in the NCAA tournament without an elite point guard, but it’s tough to ignore Kentucky’s dynamic duo of power forward Patrick Patterson and shooting guard Jodie Meeks. Kentucky’s 90-72 victory at Tennessee established the Wildcats as the class of the SEC this season, even though they haven’t cracked the national rankings. Since dropping their first two games of the season, against VMI and North Carolina, the Wildcats have lost just twice all season (at home to Miami and at Louisville). Kentucky enters the week with 11 wins in its past 12 games. And the one loss was a down-to-the-wire game on the road against a Louisville team playing as well as anyone in the nation. While the players on this roster have never advanced beyond the second round of the tournament, Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie reached the Sweet 16 two years ago in his final season at Texas A&M. Don’t be surprised if he’s back in the regional semifinals this season.
UK pulls out a tough 63-58 road win over Dennis Felton and the Georgia Bulldogs to go 10-9 on the season. Gillispie and the boys need to pull out 8 or 9 more wins. If the boys in blue can win 9 of the next 13 possible games. Preferably winning the SEC Tourney or at least making it to Sunday afternoon. They can make a nice run in the NCAAs. That gives Gillispie a fairly respectable first season and builds momentum going into next year.
Kentucky pulls out the win over the Bulldogs with a hobbled Joe C. and more importantly without Ramel and Jodie. Big man Pat pulls out another nice game for Gillispie. This team is there emotionally. If they can ever get 100% healthy, look out. I think they can surprise. Sneak up on a couple of teams in the tournament. Like ‘Zona did in ’97. I don’t think Kentucky has a title run in them this year. But I think they could make a surprise run to the Sweet 16. Maybe get lucky and meet up with Minnesota and send them home to Gopher land.
Defeating UGa in a much needed road win. That’s 3 straight wins. Taking the Cats to 4 and 2 in the SEC.
Florida is getting taken to the woodshed by John Pelphrey and the Razorbacks. By the end of the day, UK may be tied for 2nd in the East. For now, I’ll take it.