Up until now, Kentucky has been the like the Titanic, invincible and unsinkable. They've demolished every SEC or non-conference opponent, even beating Vanderbilt on the road.
But they couldn't handle Tennessee's energy and intensity at Thompson Boling Arena.
This loss isn't the iceberg that will end John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins' maiden voyage. They're still a two loss team and should be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Kentucky is also loaded with talent, boasting 10 four and five star recruits on their roster.
But Kentucky has some shortcomings that will lead to their early exit.
Kentucky only has one upperclassman that gets consistent playing time. That's elite post man Patrick Patterson. However, he's only played in one NCAA tournament game in his career.
The rest of Kentucky's stars are blue collar freshmen and sophomores. Wall and Cousins have shown they can be clutch (Wall's last second shot vs. Miami; Cousins' double double at Vanderbilt). But they haven't been in any one and done situations like March Madness. Tennessee with savvy, tournament hardened seniors Wayne Chism and JP Prince frustrated UK's diaper dandies with their crisp passing and deflections.
Kentucky only had two more turnovers than the Vols, but their mistakes were huge. Countless times, Tennessee would get deflections that would turn into a Prince facial or a Brian Williams hip shake and pound the glass, layup.
Wall is a first-rate playmaker and can get to the rack, but he's a turnover machine, averaging four a game. He had five against Tennessee, including a pass that sailed out of bounds with no Wildcat even near it. Wall's maverick style of play may hurt the 'Cats against more steady points, like Jon Scheyer of Duke and the Jayhawks' Sherron Collins.
3. Lack of true road game experience.
Early in the season, Kentucky had a schedule cushier than a Tempur Pedic mattress. They played teams like Miami of Ohio and Rider at home and had easy neutral site games in Cancun (lucky) against Stanford.
However, though they've only twice been on the road, the 'Cats have played much worse on the road than at home. For example, they beat Vandy by 13 at home and on the road only won by a deuce. Hopefully, this rough experience at the notoriously tough Thompson Boling Arena will help the 'Cats grow up.
Kentucky has shown talent, atheticism, and outside shooting throughout this season. Their 80 ppg leads the SEC. But this road game was a wake up call before it's too late during the SEC and NCAA tournaments.
If Patterson can develop into a strong upper class leader, attack the basket, and not be invisible for half a game, the 'Cats should have a great lead wolf for their young pack. Also, Wall and Bledsoe must cut down on sloppy play and shoot better away from home.
Even with these weaknesses, Kentucky has the raw materials to make a Final Four.