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Kentucky Basketball: 10 Things the Cats Must Do To Get Into the NCAA Title Hunt

Matt DavidCorrespondent IIDecember 19, 2016

Kentucky Basketball: 10 Things the Cats Must Do To Get Into the NCAA Title Hunt

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    Brandon KnightAndy Lyons/Getty Images

    The University of Kentucky Wildcat basketball team has struggled on the road. They've lost three out of their last four and five out of their last ten.

    On the other hand, aside from the Ole Miss game, their losses have come against quality opponents. In fact, they were in every game this season except for the game against Connecticut—they have had the 10th-toughest schedule.

    Click here for predictions about UK's remaining schedule.

    What do they need to get make a run at another title?

1. Josh Harrellson

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    Josh HarrellsonAndy Lyons/Getty Images

    Kentucky needs more consistency from Josh Harrellson. This guy can shoot the rock and needs to get back into a groove.

    Against Louisville, Harrellson scored a career-high 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. This dude can play but he must step it up to help Terrence Jones down low.

    Harrellson needs to go back to taking medium-range shots, which he can make. He could average 10 points a game if he would take them more often.

2. DeAndre Liggins

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    DeAndre LigginsAndy Lyons/Getty Images

    DeAndre Liggins is the team's best defender. He plays hard and never quits.

    On the other hand, Liggins plays out of control at times and runs his mouth to the refs too much.

    Liggins must get more disciplined on offense and keep his comments to himself.

3. Terrence Jones

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    Terrence JonesAndy Lyons/Getty Images

    Terrence Jones is a beast. He has a very good chance of breaking Rex Chapman's freshman scoring record.

    It is hard to ask even more of the team's best player but if Jones can step it up to the next level, the 'Cats will be very difficult on neutral courts in the tournament.

4. Veteran Leadership

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    Darius MillerAndy Lyons/Getty Images

    The Cats need guys like Josh Harrellson, Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins to get the freshmen over the hump.

    Those guys have been around. It is tough to go on the road in the SEC and win games without them.

    At times it seems like they get caught up in the hype of their superstar teammates and forget that they need to lead the team.

    Here is an interesting article about whether Kentucky can be successful with one-and-done players.

5. Stop Falling Behind

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    Doron LambAndy Lyons/Getty Images

    This team has had trouble falling behind, especially on the road. They seem to think they can turn it on and pull out wins.

    That formula is a recipe for an early loss in the tournament.

6. Brandon Knight

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    Brandon KnightAndy Lyons/Getty Images

    Like Jones, Brandon Knight could also top Rex Chapman for the freshman scoring record. Also, like Jones, it is hard to ask even more of one of the team's top players.

    Point guards are important in the tournament—having a reliable player handle the ball is essential.

    Knight will need to play steady and knock down big shots for them to win.

7. Just Win Baby

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    Brandon KnightAndy Lyons/Getty Images

    For the this team to get deep in the tournament, they need to come together as a team, decide they're going to win tough games and take tough shots when they are there.

    The Wildcats have loads of talent and potential, although they are sometimes prone to stinking up the place.

    If they can avoid those stretches, they can beat anyone.

    Here is a look at each player on the roster.

8. Bench Players

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    Elroy VargasAndy Lyons/Getty Images

    Getting more from the bench may be a pipe dream at this point. Coach Calipari doesn't want to play the bench players because he doesn't want to lose any games.

    Elroy Vargas has been the goat for many fans. However, he had a decent 14 minutes against Florida—they need more from him.

    If Vargas, Jon Hood or Stacey Poole could elevate their play, it could be a huge factor in the tournament.

9. Killer Instinct

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    Darius MillerJim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Tournament winners need heart. This young team needs to develop the killer instinct to close out teams.

    The Kentucky faithful will show up at the big dance to cheer this team on, which may help them settle in and get comfortable in strange arenas.

    The Wildcats can make it to the tournament finals but will need to dig down, find some heart and get after the other team.

10. Coach Cal

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    John CalipariGrant Halverson/Getty Images

    Coach Cal is working with mostly freshman and a thin bench. His task is not easy.

    Calipari needs to find the right mix of riding them when they make mistakes and cutting them some slack. All Wildcat fans can ask is that Coach Cal maximizes the talent he has on the floor at all times. He is doing his best and they play hard for the most part.

    The last thing they need is a team that is mentally worn down for the tournament.

    For another perspective on what the Cats need for tournament success, click here.

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