With Nerlens Noel lost for the season, Kentucky basketball has come down to a seven-game season.
The Cats are 17-7. They are 8-3 in the SEC. As of this morning, Kentucky sits at No. 43 in the RPI. This known as the NCAA Tournament bubble, something the Cats haven’t had to worry about lately. They do now.
So here’s a look at the seven opponents left on the Kentucky schedule.
Tennessee: The Cats play the Vols in Knoxville on Saturday in a 1 p.m. game on CBS. UK won the first meeting, 75-65 back in Lexington on January 15. Jarnell Stokes was stuck in a slump then. He’s rolling now. The sophomore forward has been UT’s top scorer in four of the last five games and is working on a string of seven straight double-digit rebound games. With Noel out, Stokes will be an extremely difficult matchup for the Cats.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores come to Rupp next Wednesday. UK won the first meeting 60-58 in Nashville back on Jan. 10. Cats had a big lead in that one then very nearly let it all get away. Kevin Stallings club is not the best. It has lost five of its last six games, including a 12-point defeat at home against Tennessee last night.
Missouri: The Tigers and College GameDay arrive at Rupp on Feb. 23. Frank Haith’s team finally got its first conference road win last night, mashing Mississippi State. But since it was Mississippi State, not sure that counts. Missouri has won three of its last four and has shown signs of finally getting it together. With Noel out, the Tigers could smell a marquee road win before a national ESPN TV audience.
Mississippi State: Rick Ray’s team arrives in Lexington on Feb. 27. John Calipari may pick up the Bulldogs are the airport. He may pick them up in Starkville and personally drive them to the Civic Center. Mississippi State is just that bad. The Bulldogs have failed to score 50 points in four of their 11 conference games. They’ve won two league games. That’s it.
Arkansas: UK travels to Fayetteville on February 2. That UK has to travel is bad news. Arkansas is tough at home. Very tough. The Razorbacks are 5-0 in league home games, including an 80-69 win over Arkansas. That is Florida’s lone SEC loss. Mike Anderson’s club even got its first road win with a 83-75 win at Auburn last night. Marshawn Powell will be a difficult post matchup for the Cats.
Georgia: Kentucky visits Athens on March 7. Mark Fox’s team has been down and up. It started down, losing four of its five league games. Then it won five straight, including road triumphs at Texas A&M, South Carolina and Tennessee. It then returned home Tuesday and lost 52-45 to Alabama. Scoring is a struggle for the Bulldogs. Georgia hasn’t scored more than 68 points in any SEC game this year.
Florida: The Cats and Gators close out the regular season on March 9. On the one hand, you could say that UK owes Florida, given Tuesday’s loss and Noel’s injury — not that it was Florida’s fault. On the other hand, the Gators are clearly the best team in the league. By a wide margin. And they led UK comfortably before Noel was lost to his knee injury.
If you had to make pick, I’d say Kentucky will go 3-4 the rest of the way.
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