It was not a pretty sight for the Kentucky faithful Friday at Bridgestone Arena. The defending national champion have looked anything like champions of late (it doesn't help that the entire starting five from last year's squad is in the NBA), which culminated in a 64-48 spanking at the hands of the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Yes. sports fans, the Vanderbilt Commodores.
This one was just plain bad. Kentucky led for less than a minute throughout the whole game. This loss could be the nail in the coffin for their post season hopes making the Wildcats likely candidates to find themselves in pretty rare territory-- defending champions that fail to make the Dance the year after winning it all.
When I heard this I was a little surprised. Yes, the Wildcats are not the same team from last season; that much is clear, but they don't suck. There have been plenty of teams that have had records of 21-11 and still made the Dance in the past.
Heck, we have teams with losing records that make it now! Those guys are more worthy? I think not.
Now I will admit to not being completely up on how the whole machination works. I do know that it is a whole lot more than just record that designates a bid to the Dance; conference tourny winners all get an automatic bid.
Kentucky has a few things that will work against it--their road losses since the team lost Nerlens Noel.
The Wildcats didn't only lose when they were away from home, they got spanked and often times pretty hard. It isn't so much that the lost bad that will do it, but they lost bad to teams that are mediocre at best.
Vanderbilt is just a .500 team. They lost by 10 to Georgia March 7 (Georgia is a sub .500 team at 15-17). Arkansas took 'em down a couple weeks ago by 13 (they are going to be lucky to make the NIT). Then there is the epic loss to Tennessee by 30, the only team of the four losses that might make the Dance.
John Calipari will not be happy to go from No.1 to not dancing at all on principle alone; no champion likes to lose. The team's failures this season will end up costing him a pretty penny as well should they not squeeze their way in as a lower seed (could you picture seeing Kentucky as a No. 16 seed?).
His contract has a lot of incentives worked into it. Last season those incentives accounted for an additional $700K. This season it would be pretty far-fetched to see them make it deep into the tournament if they do happen to get in so he isn't losing out on that much, but I'm sure it more than what most of us make!
[It wasn't a stellar season even with Nerlens, but his injury was the beginning of the end for this season.]