AUBURN, Ala. — There’s no constructed-in excuse in Lexington this time.
In 2012-13, the lone season through which John Calipari was ignored of the NCAA match at Kentucky, lottery decide Nerlens Noel went down due to a torn ACL in mid-February. The Wildcats had been hardly a lock to go dancing on the time, however Noel’s season-ending harm was the widespread chorus amongst Big Blue Nation for why the workforce misplaced 5 of its final 9 video games and went to the NIT.
This workforce is at full energy now that Jarred Vanderbilt returned about a month in the past, however the Wildcats are free-falling following Wednesday night time’s 10-point loss at Auburn — giving them their first 4-sport shedding streak since Calipari was employed in 2009.
And if not for a reward foul with two seconds left by Vanderbilt, the SEC’s final-place workforce, it could be 5 consecutive setbacks. And earlier than Vandy, there was that miracle second half through which Kentucky got here again from a 17-point deficit to beat West Virginia in Morgantown.
Now it is time to begin questioning if the Wildcats will make another NIT look, as a result of it is truthful to query whether or not this workforce can beat anybody on its remaining slate.
“I’ve got one thought. Let’s just try and win the next game, win a game,” Calipari mentioned when requested if he was involved about lacking the NCAA tourney. “I feel like if we win a game, we can get going. I’ve had teams in this kind of mode we’re in, but the league was different.”
The excellent news for Calipari & Co. is that the bubble is extremely tender. Want proof? Nebraska, Maryland and Mississippi State are nonetheless alive and kicking regardless of unimpressive résumés.
But that is a Kentucky workforce that hardly beat Vandy twice and misplaced on the street towards Texas A&M, Missouri and South Carolina. Kentucky (17-9 total) is presently 6-7 in an SEC that is likely to be deep however does not boast a lot by way of star energy.
Next up is a proficient, erratic Alabama workforce Saturday at house. Then comes Arkansas in Fayetteville — which is not any straightforward job — adopted by Missouri and Ole Miss at house earlier than closing out the common season in Gainesville towards Florida.
Calipari all the time says his workforce is younger, however he has a legitimate level this season. This group is the least skilled workforce within the nation, however I am undecided that this identical group would fare a lot better a 12 months from now. The Wildcats nonetheless would not boast a level guard who makes life simpler for his teammates, would not function any respectable perimeter shooters past Kevin Knox, they usually nonetheless may not look or play like a workforce.
“I’ve got a bunch of young kids that at times don’t listen, they don’t trust,” Calipari mentioned. “I told them last night [that] I failed them. I haven’t built enough trust that when I talk to them, they’re going to do what this man says. … But they’ve also failed each other. They don’t play for each other.”
It wasn’t as if Auburn performed lights out, both. The Tigers made certainly one of their first 16 pictures, wound up taking pictures 37 p.c from the sector and made solely eight of 27 pictures from past the arc; this from a workforce that shoots 46 p.c for the season and 39 p.c from deep. Auburn’s high participant, main scorer Bryce Brown, was taking part in at far lower than 100 p.c and wasn’t even certain he’d have the option to go when he wakened Wednesday morning due to a shoulder harm that stored him out of Saturday’s win at Georgia.
But this Kentucky workforce is lacking one thing. No, it is lacking greater than only one factor. There’s a litany of explanation why the Wildcats have struggled. The Dec. 29 shellacking of rival Louisville looks as if an eternity in the past, and this workforce not brings an intimidation issue that has been related to those that have “KENTUCKY” on their jerseys.
But these guys — as well as to extremely touted recruits Hamidou Diallo, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Sacha Killeya-Jones — simply misplaced to a bunch of lunch-pail guys, gamers corresponding to Brown, who selected Auburn over FIU and Georgia Southern popping out of highschool.
“We got the bottom, most underrated guys,” Brown mentioned. “They have the guys rated high, but we’re playing with that chip on our shoulder.”
There’s no chip with these guys in Lexington. Maybe they’re too good, too tender or too targeted on making a temporary pit cease earlier than leaping to the subsequent degree. Whatever the case, Calipari hasn’t been ready to get this group to play with the fireplace and depth that has been his trademark over time.
Yet Calipari has managed to stay even-keeled by this shedding skid. It could possibly be as a result of he ready for the mediocrity after getting a shut take a look at this group within the preseason, or that he understands higher than most that March is all anybody really remembers, anyway.
“I’m old. I’m not fazed by it, not cracking,” he mentioned. “This isn’t about me. This season is not going to change anything about me.”
Calipari’s proper. He has proved loads in his tenure in Lexington. He has a nationwide title and three different Final Four appearances. For anybody who’s disenchanted with Cal, may I remind you of the 2-12 months Billy Clyde Gillispie debacle in 2008 and 2009?
The excellent news: Just a few of those guys will bolt after this season, and he’ll exchange them with a new batch of shiny, younger recruits.
But will this workforce go down as probably the most disappointing within the Calipari period? It’s actually headed that approach.