Two weeks ago, the Kentucky Wildcats were as good as dead in the water after the Wildcats lost to South Carolina at Rupp Arena in an embarrassing fashion. Many across basketball had started to talk that Coach Cal should even leave Kentucky for the Texas job to avoid being fired by the Wildcats at the end of the season, yet, Kentucky isn’t dead. Kentucky seemingly got their stuff together the following Saturday with a massive win over Tennessee before rattling off four more wins to bring the Wildcats just outside the top four in the Southeastern Conference. Kentucky has new life, and the Wildcats face another week with two games that Kentucky has a chance to win to further cement the new life that the Wildcats have found.
The resurgence of Kentucky was on full showcase on Tuesday night as the Wildcats went into Memorial Gymnasium on the campus of Vanderbilt and handled the Commodores with ease. Sure, Coach Stackhouse and his Commodores showed signs of life throughout the first half, but in the end, Kentucky made another statement with the dismantling of Vanderbilt.
Watching Kentucky on Tuesday night, you could feel old-school Kentucky Basketball coming around as the Wildcats embraced the challenge while Big Blue Nation in attendance took over by downing the home fans with a loud Go Big Blue chant. New life has come over Kentucky and its fans, as the Wildcats show the team we all expected to see from the jump. It might have taken a loss to South Carolina at home to wake up Kentucky from their slumber, but now that the Wildcats have won four straight, you have to wonder what the ceiling is for the team.
There are no questions regarding the talent on the Kentucky roster, but what will be interesting to watch is how Coach Cal continues to use lineups. If Kentucky wants to continue to have success, the lineup of Cason Wallace, CJ Fredrick, Oscar Tshiebwe, Chris Livingston, Jacob Toppin, and Antonio Reeves off the bench is about as good as they come. Does it suck for a guy like Wheeler, who had an impact last season? Maybe, but at this point in the season, feelings don’t matter. Coach Cal understands; that you have to put your team in the best position to win games. Those six guys have proven over the last two weeks that those are the guys that Kentucky can count on to win games down the stretch. Those six provide Kentucky with endless scoring, rebounding, and defensive consistency to compete for a National Championship.
Kentucky has another massive opportunity on Saturday as the Wildcats welcome the Kansas Jayhawks to Rupp Arena. A win over Kansas would be an extra layer to the teams’ swagger as they prepare for the final month of the Southeastern Conference season. In February, Kentucky will face Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, and Mississippi State. Kentucky needs quad-one wins to secure a bid to the NCAA Tournament, which starts on Saturday with the Jayhawks of Kansas. The matchup won’t be easy, but Rupp Arena will be rocking, and Kentucky has the swagger.
Two weeks ago, Kentucky didn’t have an identity as a team, but the Wildcats have found that missing identity and they have much more to show. Somebody will eventually beat them this month, but it won’t be easy as the Wildcats have started that John Calipari peak that happens in late January to early February.