Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Kentucky Wildcats Undefeated? No.

In November, shortly after the start of the college basketball season, I made a prediction that the UK Wildcats men's basketball team could potentially go undefeated.

At the time, they were 6-0, but had achieved that only after a few nail-biters against not-so-great teams, including a win over Miami of Ohio thanks only to a buzzer beater.

After that, UK went on to win all their non-conference games and their first four conference games, good enough to get them to #1 in the rankings and the only undefeated team in the nation, at 19-0. It was the best start a UK men's basketball team has had since the mid-1960's.

Unfortunately, about 30 hours after officially achieving that #1 ranking, they collapsed and lost to South Carolina, who was only 11-8 coming into the game (and had lost three in a row).

Despite my immense disappointment in losing so abjectly such a short time after finally achieving a #1 ranking, I am still fairly happy with how Kentucky has performed this year. When I predicted in November that they would go undefeated, I certainly recognized that the chances of that happening were extremely slim. At that time, I would have been pleased to know that they'd go on to win their first 19 games - certainly more than what most people, even the most optimistic, would have expected from such a young team (three of their five starters are freshman and they have no senior starters).

In that post, I said that for Kentucky to be great this year, they would need to start showing some signs of cohesion and team chemistry - something they showed very little of in those first six games. The Wildcats have done just that, and I believe that's the reason they didn't lose a game until last night. Interestingly, I think it's fair to say that in their loss last night, they looked very similar to how they looked in the first few games of the season - no cohesion, no chemistry. It's as if the pressure and prominence of being #1 caused them to regress. I was struck, in fact, by how they almost looked like they didn't even really want to be out there. They looked lethargic at times, like they somehow weren't in the mood to play ball. Clearly the media attention was getting to them.

I most definitely am not worried, however. They will rebound from this loss, like any good team does, and a loss or two (or three or four) certainly doesn't spell the end of their championship hopes.

I have to admit to a bit of personal disappointment too. In the last few weeks, a lot of people have been talking about UK going undefeated all year. That's to be expected when a team is 19-0 and are the only undefeated team left in college basketball. But in November, when I predicted an undefeated season, and laid out my argument why it was possible, there were most definitely not very many people talking about such things, or taking such talk very seriously. I have to admit the idea of looking prophetic appealed greatly to me - imagine the kind of exposure I might have been able to get if UK had gone on to an undefeated season? Bragging rights to the extreme, and all that.

Oh well. I'm not a prophet. But in any case, it was fun while it lasted.

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