Bad enough a drought-stricken Kentucky — 18 first-half points — suffered that mauling at Missouri on Saturday when afterward John Calipari sounded the alarm on the Cats’ remaining eight games.
“We could lose all eight,” he said.
The Kentucky coach doubled down on that in a Sunday thread of tweets that asked fans for help, saying, “We need you Tuesday to be at your best from the tip to the finish. If we’re going good, ride it and push us to make the lead unbearable. If we’re struggling some, encourage us and bring us back. The last eight minutes of the game, do not sit down! We need you more than ever now!”
Indeed, given the foes left on the schedule, Calipari knows the Cats (17-6 overall; 6-4 in the SEC) need all the help they can get. Grab the Dramamine and take a look, if you dare:
Tennessee (Feb. 6 in Rupp): The Volunteers have won eight of their last nine games, including 76-65 over UK on Jan. 6 in Knoxville, including five straight wins, including successive smackings of LSU (84-61) and Ole Miss (94-61).
Texas A&M (Feb. 10 in College Station): A late no-call allowed the Cats to pull out a 74-73 win over the Aggies on Jan. 9 at Rupp. Billy Kennedy’s team may finally be putting its talented pieces back together, however. After a 14-point win over Arkansas on Tuesday, the Aggies whipped South Carolina 83-60 on Saturday.
Auburn (Feb. 14 in Auburn): Bruce Pearl’s Tigers are college basketball’s surprise story. Despite an FBI investigation and rumors about Pearl’s job status, Auburn is 21-2 overall and 9-1 in the SEC. Point guard Jared Harper dished 14 assists in the Tigers’ 93-81 Saturday win over Vanderbilt.
Alabama (Feb. 17 at Rupp): When Calipari is lamenting freshman unpredictability, Bama’s Avery Johnson vigorously nods his head. On Jan. 27, Bama beat Trae Young and Oklahoma. On Jan. 30, Bama lost at home to Missouri. On Feb. 3, Bama stun-gunned host Florida 68-50. Who says the Tide can’t do the same at UK?
Arkansas (Feb. 20 in Fayetteville): A 94-86 loss at LSU on Saturday dropped Mike Anderson’s disappointing Razorbacks to 4-6 in league play. So what. Calipari is 1-3 in Bud Walton Arena as the UK coach with two overtime losses.
Missouri (Feb. 24 in Rupp): Kentucky getting revenge will be easier said than done. So far, UK has not reacted well to teams that like to play rough such as South Carolina’s Men of (Frank) Martin, a 76-68 UK loss in Columbia, and Missouri’s Men of (Cuonzo) Martin, a 69-60 UK loss in the other Columbia.
Ole Miss (Feb. 28 in Rupp): Of UK’s eight remaining games, this is the one in which the Cats will likely be a prohibitive favorite. Andy Kennedy’s club is 11-12 overall and 4-6 in the league. It has lost five of its last six games, including that 33-point thrashing in Knoxville.
Florida (March 3 in Gainesville): Relying heavily on the three-point shot, Florida runs very hot or very cold. Right now, it is ice-cold, losing by 12 at Georgia and 18 at home to Alabama. It could easily catch fire again. Plus, the Gators beat UK 66-64 at Rupp on Jan. 20 and blew out Calipari’s Cats 88-66 in Gainesville last season.
It was after that game that Calipari said his team may or may not have hit “rock bottom” after its third loss in four games. The Cats responded by winning 14 straight before losing on a buzzer-beater to North Carolina in the South Region final.
After Saturday’s loss, Calipari made a similar statement — “I don’t have the answer right now” — so perhaps a similar response plays out. It won’t be easy, though. The SEC is stronger than it was a year ago and Kentucky is not quite as good. If the Cats finish strong, they’ll have earned it.
Ken Pomeroy ratings for UK’s remaining opponents
Note: Kentucky is ranked 30th overall by Pomeroy; 54th on offense and 21st on defense.
SEC men’s basketball standings