For the second straight year, Kentucky basketball fans find themselves scratching their heads midway through the season. Second-year head coach Billy Gillespie has got the team playing well after yet another rocky start, but how good is this team?
We know for a fact that this team has talent. Sophomore forward Patrick Patterson and junior guard Jodie Meeks are the among the top players in the SEC. Patterson is a force under the basket and has amazing accuracy, while Meeks is a high-octane scorer who should contend for Player of the Year honors.
Role players such as Perry Stevenson and Ramon Harris have come on strong again this year and are contributing valuable minutes. This team also has a strong core of new players in Josh Harrellson, Darius Miller, and DeAndre Liggins, so talent is not the issue.
After an embarrassing opening loss at home to VMI, it looked as though it would be another long year in the Bluegrass State, but things have started to turn around. Kentucky picked up quality wins against Kansas State and West Virginia early, played a very good Louisville team down to the wire, and demolished a Tennessee team that was supposed to run away with the SEC.
This team now finds itself at 14-4 (3-0) and in control of its own destiny. With a realistic shot at winning the conference, there should be little doubt that this team can play its way into the NCAA Tournament. The big question, though, is whether or not they are good enough to avoid another early exit.
If the team plays as a unit like they did against Louisville and Tennessee, they can play with any team in the country. If they play like they did early on against VMI, though, they’re looking at another first-round defeat in the Tournament.
In reality, it’s hard to pin his team down. They could be a great team, or just an average team. It looks as though we’ll have to wait until March to find out for sure.