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Dribble Handoff: With Kentucky struggling to date, how will the Wildcats manufacture the accepted season?

After origin the season ranked No. 4 in the AP High 25, Kentucky did no longer procure a single vote on this week’s ballotamid a 1-3 beginning to SEC play marked by an embarrassing 78-52 loss at Alabama on Saturday which was once adopted by a 71-68 loss to South Carolina on Tuesday that snapped a 28-recreation a hit dawdle at Rupp Area for the Wildcats. At No. 46 in the NET with an 0-4 file in Quad 1 video games, the Wildcats are a profound disappointment after returning nationwide player of the yr Oscar Tshiebwe alongside with varied key gamers corresponding to Sahvir Wheeler and Jacob Toppin from a 26-8 personnel. 

On the heels of a blinding upset loss to No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s in the first spherical of ultimate yr’s NCAA Tournament, frustration with 14th-yr coach John Calipari is at an all-time high within the UK fanbase. The program’s final set in the Ample Dance got here in 2019, and it seems as if there are no longer any ensures that 2023 will remark one.

However two months remain until Possibility Sunday and Kentucky mute has time to turn things around. 5-star beginners Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston possess every shown encouraging flashes and can only toughen as the season progresses. Sharpshooting guard CJ Fredrick must mute also return from a finger injure sooner or later at some stage in league play.

The fluctuate of outcomes for the Wildcats remains huge, and the saga of Calipari’s tenure reaching a indispensable juncture figures to steal the sport’s collective consideration for weeks to reach abet. For this week’s model of the Dribble Handoff, our writers are providing their projections for the intention the rest of Kentucky’s season will play out.

Cats a bubble personnel, but makes Ample Dance

  • Predicted conference file: 10-8
  • Predicted NCAA Tournament seed: No. 9

Kentucky has been unimpressive all season and would no longer seem on the verge of turning things around. The Wildcats correct got blasted at Alabama by 26 parts. They’re 3-3 of their previous six video games, mute in possession of zero Quadrant 1 wins and down to 45th in the NET, 56th at BartTorvik.com and 62nd at KPI.

UK seems to be like treasure a seemingly bubble personnel.

At this point, I’m skeptical the Wildcats will ever are living as much as the preseason expectations that had them ranked No. 1 at KenPom.com, in the quit five in overall all over the distance and labeled as SEC favorites — but I mute judge they’ll land on the honest aspect of the bubble and produce the NCAA Tournament. After which … who’s conscious of? A yr ago, UK had a rare accepted season adopted by a poor NCAA Tournament. This yr would possibly well well conceivably be the reverse — a disappointing accepted season adopted by a nice NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats mute possess the reigning CBS Sports activities National Player of the Year (Oscar Tshiebwe) and a projected lottery recall (Cason Wallace). Or no longer it is no longer essentially the most talented roster John Calipari has ever assembled, but or no longer it is mute a more talented roster than most coaches possess. Now or no longer it is correct a matter of figuring some things out, doing sufficient to present the subject of 68, after which seeing if things can fracture the honest blueprint when that single-elimination match gets underway. — Gary Parrish

UK’s season stays bumpy but tremendous wins will reach

  • Predicted conference file: 11-7
  • Predicted NCAA Tournament seed: No. 9

Though UK sits at 1-2 in the SEC — I inquire of it to be 2-2 after beating South Carolina at house on Tuesday evening — that conference goes to be too tricky to moderately inquire of the Wildcats to drag off anything higher than a four-recreation a hit dawdle between now and the postseason. There are seven avenue tests, plus a house recreation on Jan. 28 in opposition to No. 2 Kansas in the final model of the SEC/Ample 12 Enlighten. So, the losses will stack periodically. Alternatively, I inquire of Kentucky to gain some resolve and stiffen its protection. 

I inquire of it to notch a few serious Quad 1 victories and produce obvious this can dodge bubble deliver by the second week of March. Right here goes to total up being treasure the personnel in 2014 that was once in the 8/9 recreation. Due to the with five losses already and possibly on the least another five coming between now and Possibility Sunday, or no longer it is optimistic to command Kentucky will carry out a single-digit seed. I will suppose it does narrowly, though, thanks to an correct exhibiting in the SEC Tournament. And: Kentucky’s going to beat Kansas later this month. — Matt Norlander

Wildcats hit breeze by February

  • Predicted conference file: 13-5
  • Predicted NCAA Tournament seed: No. 6

There isn’t one of these thing as a matter that Kentucky has underperformed relative to preseason expectations and even relative to relaxed in-season expectations after struggling early triggered a laborious reset. A 10-5 beginning to the season is flat underachieving at Kentucky even for folks that possess serious concerns. There is reasons for cautious optimism, though. Right here is quietly one of many appropriate 3-point shooting groups Calipari has fielded at UK, and Oscar Tshiebwe, for all his struggles, has continued to be nails pounding the offensive glass and producing second-likelihood opportunities. 

Some minor tweaks for player roles and an increased tackle doing what it does effectively — launching 3-pointers, feeding Cason Wallace opportunities to command the table and getting Tshiebwe into favorable spots — is possibly sufficient to turn things around. There is mute some stuff on the margins that need necessary development — this personnel is poor at shooting free throws and it repeatedly runs into late-clock hero ball on offense — but I’ve considered sufficient positives to judge it generally is a No. 6 or No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament and work its blueprint abet into being a high-15 degree personnel by the terminate of the accepted season..  — Kyle Boone

UK in First Four, one of ultimate groups in Ample Dance

  • Predicted conference file: 9-9
  • Predicted NCAA Tournament seed: No. 12 (First Four) 

Kentucky performs an antiquated offensive style that is defined by a methodical flow and minute floor spacing. Without an elite protection that would possibly well repeatedly accomplish transition opportunities, UK is getting slowed down in half-court sets and struggling to gain a rhythm or construct momentum. Schematically speaking, Calipari correct would no longer possess it in him at this point in his profession to drag the strings indispensable to free up the skill of this roster.

The SEC’s backside feeders will be sure the Wildcats recall up a supreme quantity of league victories. However UK would no longer safe a accepted-season rematch with No. 4 Alabama, which places a heavy emphasis on two video games in opposition to No. 5 Tennessee and two video games in opposition to No. 15 Arkansas. Outside of those contests, a single recreation with No. 21 Auburn and a Ample 12/SEC Enlighten recreation with No. 2 Kansas signify Kentucky’s only possibilities to add substance to its resume.

Or no longer it is laborious to gaze the Wildcats doing any higher than maybe 2-4 or 3-3 in opposition to Arkansas (two video games), Tennessee (two video games), Auburn and Kansas. Kentucky seems to be like destined for the NCAA Tournament bubble, and I will steal a swing on the Wildcats landing a web page in the First Four as varied blue bloods corresponding to Indiana, Michigan Command and UCLA possess in most modern years. — David Cobb

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