Kentucky's loss to Seton Hall in an overtime thriller proves the Wildcats just aren't very good right now
UK wasted Keldon Johnson's half-court shot to force OT in a loss to the Pirates
Duke's season-opening 118-84 destruction of Kentucky was shocking on multiple levels when it happened -- mostly because you never expect to see a team ranked No. 2 in the preseason Associated Press poll get handled so easily and lose to anybody by 34 points. But that surprising result looks a little less surprising with the benefit of hindsight because what we now know is that Kentucky isn't anything close to the second-best team in the country.
Or the 10th-best. Or the 20th-best.
And don't be surprised if the Wildcats drop completely out of Sunday morning's updatedcollege basketball rankings because they just had their second test away from Rupp Arena, only their second test against a top-75 KenPom team, and the result was not a good one.
Final: Seton Hall 84, Kentucky 83 in overtime.
So the Wildcats have dropped to 7-2 on the season, which might sound OK without context. But all seven wins are wins at home over sub-75 KenPom teams -- four of which are ranked outside of the top 275. That means Kentucky is 0-2 against the best two teams it's played, 0-2 away from Rupp Arena, and now in possession of a loss to a three-loss Seton Hall squad that's missing four starters from last season.
Needless to say, that's not good.
But the finish of Saturday's game was fantastic.
If you missed it, here's what you missed: Myles Powell, who finished with a team-high 28 points, made a long 3-pointer with 1:15 left to tie the score at 67-67, then sank a ridiculous step-back jumper with 1.5 seconds remaining to push Seton Hall ahead 70-67. At that point, it looked like the Pirates would win in regulation. But then this happened ...
Game tied. Headed to overtime. And if you're the type who believes in momentum, you were likely mumbling Kentucky had it. But Seton Hall actually scored the first two baskets in OT, took a 74-70 lead, subsequently lost that lead but then took it back when Myles Cale made a 3-pointer with 9.5 seconds left.
That shot put Seton Hall ahead 84-83. And when Johnson missed a 3-pointer on a final possession that didn't produce a good look, this Seton Hall team that had previously lost to Nebraska, Saint Louis and Louisville suddenly had a win over this Kentucky team that was the preseason pick to win the SEC. Obviously, UK would be nobody's pick now; Tennessee or Auburn would get the nod in a revote -- which is not to suggest the Wildcats can't still add the trophy come March. They remain the league's most talented team, I think. And, either way, anybody doubting whether John Calipari will eventually get the Wildcats right is ignorant to the history of the Hall of Fame coach's previous nine years. FYI: UK has lost multiple games before Dec. 9 only three teams in the past nine seasons -- specifically in the 2010-11 season, the 2012-13 season and the 2013-14 season. Two of those seasons (2011, 2014) resulted in trips to the Final Four. And the one that didn't (2013) was derailed only when the best player (Nerlens Noel) suffered a season-ending knee injury.
In other words, bet against UK at your own risk.
Odds are, the Wildcats will be good in time. But, truth is, they're not that good yet. And Saturday's first game away from Rupp Arena in more than a month, against an unranked team with three losses, served as the latest reminder.
"Every year that I go through this, it's painful and aging -- trying to figure out your team, trying to get them to finish games and mature quickly," Calipari told reporters afterward. "It's hard. And I'm gonna have to go through it again."
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