Back in October, Kentucky coach John Calipari told fans, “we stink.”
Some wrote it off as hyperbole. And, for the most part, it was.
But Kentucky is in a rut entering its final game before SEC play. Hated rival Louisville is trending up. And after a loss to unranked Ohio State on Saturday, the Wildcats are in an apparent free fall.
With the Cardinals headed to Rupp Arena the day after Christmas, we wondered: What does Kentucky need under its tree to become the Final Four team many thought it was as recently as last week?
What would help the Wildcats remove the “stink” from their season?
Here are some ideas:
- A role for Tai Wynyard
We have no idea if the mid-year enrollee slash lumberjack is ready to play, but Kentucky needs some serious frontcourt depth after the disappearance of 5-star freshman Skal Labissiere. Speaking of which…
- A new, improved Skal
Seriously, what happened? He was playing confident — if not physical — basketball to begin the season, but quickly devolved into a pointless, reboundless bystander. Can Calipari salvage the Haitian Frustration by March?
- A breezy SEC schedule
It certainly looks like Kentucky will be favored to win another Southeastern title this spring. The Wildcats have been disappointing, but so have preseason darlings Vanderbilt and LSU. Meanwhile, Texas A&M and South Carolina have both popped into the Top 25 — though the ‘Cats avoid road games against both until mid-February.
- A reinvigorated Tyler Ulis
Kentucky’s leader has been iffy since hyperextending his elbow in November. The last time Ulis shot 50 percent or better was Nov. 20, and he’s had multiple turnovers in four straight games. Oh, and he’s 3-for-14 from three-point range in the past two contests. Perhaps some time off this week will get him back on track.
- More Jamal
The Canadian wunderkind went bonkers in the second half against Ohio State. He was the difference between a blowout loss and a three-point game with a few minutes remaining. If Murray can keep up his shooting tear — or at least show flashes in clutch moments — it will serve as an invaluable crutch for Kentucky’s offense.
The Wildcats tip off against the Cardinals at 12 p.m. ET on Saturday (CBS).