Kentucky Drops Second SEC Game 87-82 to LSU

kentuckyalabama2-wrThe Kentucky Wildcats came into this season as one of the favorites to win the NCAA Tournament. And while that is still a real possibility, it is becoming apparent that the “Greatest Class of All Time” is far from that. John Calipari has a formula since becoming the head coach of the Wildcats. With a National Championship, two Final Fours and three Elite Eights in his four previous seasons, it is tough to argue with it. He hauls in as many of the top recruits each year regardless of the likelihood they will play for one year and turn pro. The problem with this though is that not all five star recruits are alike.

The UK class of Anthony Davis, Marquis Teague and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was a special class even among UK classes. Davis is becoming an NBA superstar with the New Orleans Pelicans. While he was at UK for his one season two years ago, he blocked everything opponents shot, he grabbed every rebound that came anywhere near him and by season’s end he was a pretty potent offensive player. From the first game of the season until the last, Kentucky was nearly unbeatable. When that team went to the NCAA Tournament, everyone else played for second place.

This year’s UK squad was supposed to be even better. If we look at the Rivals Top 150 recruiting rankings, it’s easy to see why. While Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist and Teague were all ranked in the top five, the 2013 class has six of the top 19 players. So highly touted was the 2013 class that many Kentucky fans went into the season pondering the possibility of an undefeated season. That was squashed rather quickly when the Wildcats lost in the third game of the season to the Michigan State Spartans.

But, we were told all during November and December that UK was just going through a “getting-to-know-each-other” phase and that this team would get better as they gained experience. They lost to the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Baylor Bears in the non-conference part of the schedule. There are a lot worse teams to ,lose to than those, but neither of them is near the top of their conferences. The Wildcats did get a nice win over the Louisville Cardinals though right before SEC play began.

When SEC play started, the conference was considered very weak due to many losses by the conference in the non-conference games. So UK should be rolling through the league at this point, especially considering they have yet to play the Florida Gators nor the Missouri Tigers, who were thought to be the only other teams that looked like NCAA Tournament teams. But the Wildcats have been great one game and then not-so-good the next.

The Wildcats have lost two SEC games and are 4-2 in SEC play. they lost on the road at the Arkansas Razorbacks in overtime on a put back dunk right before the buzzer sounded 87-85. Championship caliber teams generally do not get beat on a put-back dunk. In their second SEC loss on Tuesday at the LSU Tigers, The Cats trailed nearly the entire second half by double digits when they came out at the half down by six and allowed two quick Tiger buckets. But when Aaron Harrison finally started to play in the final minute, hitting three three-pointers to pull UK within five at 87-82, they inexplicably failed to commit a foul and allowed the final 20 seconds or so run off the clock.

So here we are with February fast approaching, and UK is losing to a Tigers team that came into the contest at 12-6 and 3-3. Now the schedule is getting tougher for UK as they are about to face the Missouri Tigers, Ole Miss Rebels twice and the Gators in their next six games. If UK goes 3-3 in that stretch or even 4-2, one has to start to wonder if this is just who they are at this point.

But let’s not forget the 2010 class of Brandon Knight, Terrance Jones and Doron Lamb who lost six SEC games but turned it on to win the SEC Tournament and make a Final Four run. So there is still time for this young Cats team to get the ship righted. But they need to get started on it soon.

Jim Folsom is a regualr contributor to