Kentucky put in a serious bid for an undefeated season this past weekend—not only for what it has been able to accomplish on the court, but also for what future opponents did off it.
The Wildcats knocked off rival Louisville on Saturday, 71-62, to move to 15-0, passing their final test before Southeastern Conference play kicks off this weekend against Georgia.
A perfect season?
Freshman Eric Bledsoe said it’s hard not to start thinking about it at this point, but Kentucky coach John Calipari said he won’t let the team do it.
“We’re just going to practice hard because every team is going to come out to play us,” Bledsoe said.
With a target on its back from the start, No. 3 Kentucky has amassed wins over North Carolina, Connecticut, and Indiana already this season. But as the Wildcats continue to hit a new peak game after game, the rest of the SEC is falling by the wayside.
Tennessee, which knocked off rival Memphis on New Year’s Eve, indefinitely suspended players Tyler Smith, Melvin Goins, Brian Williams, and Cameron Tatum less than a day later. Long story short, everything that could go wrong did when the four were pulled over for speeding in a rental car with Illinois tags near the University of Tennessee's campus.
South Carolina, already without star player Dominique Archie for the rest of the season due to a knee injury, dismissed junior Mike Holmes from the team. Gamecocks’ coach Darrin Horn blamed a combination of on-court disappointments and multiple violations of team rules for Holmes’ departure.
Add in that Florida lost three in a row in December and Mississippi State looked mortal from three-point range in a loss to Western Kentucky on Monday. In addition, LSU has been a disappointment this whole season and Alabama just isn’t quite at the elite level.
Sounds like the right mixture for a power team to barrel through a weaker than expected SEC and run the table.
Kentucky guard John Wall said he wasn’t so sure yet.
“We’ll have to wait and see,” Wall said.
It was already obvious a Kentucky loss in conference play would come on an off night by the Wildcats.
At this point though, it’s going to take a full-team negative effort for Kentucky to fall at some point before the NCAA Tournament.
The marquee SEC games have already narrowed to only a few matchups—between Kentucky and Vanderbilt on Jan. 3, and then again when the Wildcats meet Ole Miss on Feb. 2.
The Rebels have lost to Villanova and West Virginia, top-ranked Big East Conference opponents. The Commodores have three losses, but all to potential tournament teams.
Both Vanderbilt and Mississippi, similar to Kentucky, have some potential they haven’t met. Like the Commodores getting A.J. Ogilvy more involved on the glass, or the Rebels shortening the rotation in a lineup that currently has just two players averaging 30-plus minutes per game.
And there’s always Mississippi State and Jarvis Varnado, who last season led the Bulldogs to a win over the Wildcats.
But that was last season, and a completely different Kentucky team.
In this season’s SEC—a conference in which all but one top team has self destructed its chances—this first season for John Calipari—a potential dream season for the Wildcats, it’s a stretch to predict a conference loss for Kentucky.
Meaning the Wildcats might not lose at all.