Calipari ejection prelude to another disappointing loss for spiraling UK

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

C (USATSI)
John Calipari's gone 42-20 since the start of last season at Kentucky. (USATSI)

Is this rock bottom for the 2013-14 Kentucky Wildcats?

Before you say "yes," consider the program and the coach. Plenty of UK fans would've said it was as bad as it could get last year, when Kentucky dropped two straight games to fall to 17-8. With six games left in the regular season. Shortly thereafter, losses to Arkansas and Georgia followed.

That had to be the worst of it, right? Then came the one-and-out loss in the SEC tournament, exiling UK to the NIT. Can't get more humiliating than that, right?

We know how the 2012-13 season ended for John Calipari's team.

So regarding this year, plenty would've said "yes" to the question at hand less than 48 hours ago. They would've thought this was the lowest point of the pit this season when John Calipari's team dropped a home game to Arkansas on Thursday.

But now it's even worse. The lesson we're refusing to learn with Kentucky is that old maxim about history and a doom of repitition. Because there's another layer that's been uncovered. Kentucky went into South Carolina, didn't take the Frank Martin's team seriously enough, and will fly home as a 21-8 team, losers of two straight. The Wildcats lost 72-67 to the 11-18 Gamecocks who, entering Saturday, had only won three games in the past two months.

It was the biggest win for South Carolina since the program's last huge win -- also against Kentucky -- back in January of 2010. That team also was sub-.500 when Devan Downey and Co. gave Gamecocks fans a lifetime memory by beating a UK group that would go on to be a No. 1 seed and make the Elite Eight.

We know this Cats posse won't be replicating the former, and at this point, equaling or bettering the latter also seems too tough a slope given the current state of the team. Saturday's loss marks the first time this season UK dropped back-to-back games, something last year's NIT team managed to do four times.

It was so hopeless for John Calipari, he untucked his shirt and didn't bother shoving it back into his pants the rest of the game -- or at least until he left the game. Because he was ejected with 10:25 left in the second half.

Calipari didn't speak with the media after the game because, according to UK sports information, he was doing his postgame radio show, which conflicted with the press conference.

"I wish I didn't get thrown out of the game, so that I could fight with our team," Calipari told the UK sports information director, who passed along a few brief quotes via email.

Kentucky is so interesting because they're polarizing, but in the past two seasons, because the team has struggled over and over and over despite having some of the best recruits in the country. That's a big-picture topic that will be hammered plenty in the next 72 hours nationally and even more ferociously in the Bluegrass State.

But do we really have any idea how (not) good UK is at this point? The team's mystery remains its best quality. Kentucky's only win against a certain NCAA tourney team is Louisville, which only has four wins against the RPI top 100. Even still, Kentucky's value could be inflated at this point. The team's 6-4 in its past 10 games and is now outside the top 20 in offensive efficiency and outside the top 30 in defensive efficiency.

At least the players still have faith. Blind faith or whatever you want to call it, this is what you cling to if you're a Kentucky fan right now.

It's certainly possible. The SEC is so weak, Kentucky could absolutely romp to the SEC title game -- so long as it doesn't have to play Florida before getting there. But overall it's approaching a point where, if this team doesn't beat Florida next weekend or have the chance to do it in the SEC tourney, the seed could be pretty poor on Selection Sunday. I'm talking a No. 8, No. 9, No. 10. All possible.

We still don't know. We've never known with this team. And that's what makes it compelling, even when it's so clearly an underachiever.

 
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