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Dribble Handoff: With Kentucky struggling up to now, how will the Wildcats end the common season?

Dribble Handoff: With Kentucky struggling up to now, how will the Wildcats end the common season?

Dribble Handoff: With Kentucky struggling up to now, how will the Wildcats end the common season?

After starting the season ranked No. 4 within the AP Prime 25, Kentucky didn’t obtain a single vote on this week’s ballot amid a 1-3 begin to SEC play marked by an embarrassing 78-52 loss at Alabama on Saturday which was adopted by a 71-68 loss to South Carolina on Tuesday that snapped a 28-game successful streak at Rupp Enviornment for the Wildcats. At No. 46 within the NET with an 0-4 document in Quad 1 video games, the Wildcats are a profound disappointment after returning nationwide participant of the yr Oscar Tshiebwe together with different key gamers resembling Sahvir Wheeler and Jacob Toppin from a 26-8 crew.

On the heels of a surprising upset loss to No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s within the first spherical of final yr’s NCAA Tournamentfrustration with 14th-year coach John Calipari is at an all-time excessive inside the UK fanbase. This system’s final win within the Huge Dance got here in 2019, and it immediately seems as if there are not any ensures that 2023 will convey one.

However two months stay till Choice Sunday and Kentucky nonetheless has time to show issues round. 5-star freshmen Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston have every proven encouraging flashes and will solely enhance because the season progresses. Sharpshooting guard CJ Fredrick must also return from a finger harm sooner or later throughout league play.

The vary of outcomes for the Wildcats stays huge, and the saga of Calipari’s tenure reaching a essential juncture figures to seize the game’s collective consideration for weeks to come back. For this week’s version of the Dribble Handoff, our writers are providing their projections for a way the remainder of Kentucky’s season will play out.

Cats a bubble crew, however makes Huge Dance

  • Predicted convention document: 10-8
  • Predicted NCAA Event seed: No. 9

Kentucky has been unimpressive all season and does not appear on the verge of turning issues round. The Wildcats simply obtained blasted at Alabama by 26 factors. They’re 3-3 of their previous six video games, nonetheless in possession of zero Quadrant 1 wins and all the way down to forty fifth within the NET56th at BartTorvik.com and 62nd at KPI.

UK appears to be like like a potential bubble crew.

At this level, I am skeptical the Wildcats will ever stay as much as the preseason expectations that had them ranked No. 1 at KenPom.comwithin the prime 5 principally in every single place and labeled as SEC favorites — however I nonetheless suppose they’re going to land on the precise aspect of the bubble and make the NCAA Event. After which … who is aware of? A yr in the past, UK had a terrific common season adopted by a horrible NCAA Event. This yr may conceivably be the alternative — a disappointing common season adopted by a pleasant NCAA Event. The Wildcats nonetheless have the reigning CBS Sports activities Nationwide Participant of the Yr (Oscar Tshiebwe) and a projected lottery choose (Cason Wallace). It is not probably the most proficient roster John Calipari has ever assembled, however it’s nonetheless a extra proficient roster than most coaches have. Now it is only a matter of figuring some issues out, doing sufficient to make the sector of 68, after which seeing if issues can break the precise approach when that single-elimination event will get underway. — Gary Parrish

UK’s season stays bumpy however large wins will come

  • Predicted convention document: 11-7
  • Predicted NCAA Event seed: No. 9

Although UK sits at 1-2 within the SEC — I anticipate it to be 2-2 after beating South Carolina at house on Tuesday night time — that convention goes to be too robust to fairly anticipate the Wildcats to drag off something better than a four-game successful streak between now and the postseason. There are seven street exams, plus a house recreation on Jan. 28 in opposition to No. 2 Kansas within the ultimate version of the SEC/Huge 12 Problem. So, the losses will stack periodically. Nonetheless, I anticipate Kentucky to seek out some resolve and stiffen its protection.

I anticipate it to notch just a few essential Quad 1 victories and guarantee it would dodge bubble speak by the second week of March. That is going to wind up being just like the crew in 2014 that was within the 8/9 recreation. As a result of with 5 losses already and doubtless no less than one other 5 coming between now and Choice Sunday, it is optimistic to say Kentucky will earn a single-digit seed. I will say it does narrowly, although, because of an excellent displaying within the SEC Event. And: Kentucky’s going to beat Kansas later this month. — Matt Norlander

Wildcats hit stride by February

  • Predicted convention document: 13-5
  • Predicted NCAA Event seed: No. 6

There isn’t a doubt that Kentucky has underperformed relative to preseason expectations and even relative to relaxed in-season expectations after struggling early prompted a tough reset. A ten-5 begin to the season is flat underachieving at Kentucky even in the event you’ve obtained critical issues. There’s causes for cautious optimism, although. That is quietly top-of-the-line 3-point taking pictures groups Calipari has fielded at UK, and Oscar Tshiebwe, for all his struggles, has continued to be nails pounding the offensive glass and producing second-chance alternatives.

Some minor tweaks for participant roles and an elevated deal with doing what it does effectively — launching 3-pointers, feeding Cason Wallace alternatives to set the desk and getting Tshiebwe into favorable spots — might be sufficient to show issues round. There’s nonetheless some stuff on the margins that want important enchancment — this crew is terrible at taking pictures free throws and it constantly runs into late-clock hero ball on offense — however I’ve seen sufficient positives to suppose it may be a No. 6 or No. 7 seed within the NCAA Event and work its approach again into being a top-15 stage crew by the top of the common season.. — Kyle Boone

UK in First 4, one in every of final groups in Huge Dance

  • Predicted convention document: 9-9
  • Predicted NCAA Event seed: No. 12 (First 4)

Kentucky performs an antiquated offensive model that’s outlined by a methodical tempo and restricted flooring spacing. With out an elite protection that may constantly create transition alternatives, UK is getting slowed down in half-court units and struggling to discover a rhythm or construct momentum. Schematically talking, Calipari simply does not have it in him at this level in his profession to drag the strings essential to unlock the potential of this roster.

The SEC’s backside feeders will be certain that the Wildcats choose up a good variety of league victories. However UK doesn’t get a regular-season rematch with No. 4 Alabama, which places a heavy emphasis on two video games in opposition to No. 5 Tennessee and two video games in opposition to No. 15 Arkansas. Exterior of these contests, a single recreation with No. 21 Auburn and a Huge 12/SEC Problem recreation with No. 2 Kansas characterize Kentucky’s solely probabilities so as to add substance to its resume.

It is onerous to see the Wildcats doing any higher than possibly 2-4 or 3-3 in opposition to Arkansas (two video games), Tennessee (two video games), Auburn and Kansas. Kentucky appears to be like destined for the NCAA Event bubble, and I will take a swing on the Wildcats touchdown a spot within the First 4 as different blue bloods resembling Indiana, Michigan State and UCLA have lately. — David Cobb




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