The Final Five: A deeper look at UK’s five remaining games


Head coach John Calipari talks with Guard Tyler Ulis on the sidelines in the game against Tennessee.

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As the end of the college basketball regular season draws near, fans packed in college basketball gyms across the nation get a little tenser – their teams have only a few more chances to solidify themselves before the postseason.

In this case, I’ll be dissecting No. 14 UK’s (20-6, 10-3) – a team who’s won its last four games by an average of 22.5 points – final five regular season games. The Cats have the toughest remaining schedule in the SEC, which means the ride to a one seed in the SEC Tournament is far from promised.

Here is what the Cats’ final five games look like:

Saturday, Feb. 20 – UK at Texas A&M (19-7, 8-5)

Arguably the toughest game remaining on UK’s schedule, facing the Aggies in College Station with ESPN’s College Gameday in the house will be a difficult task to say the least. UK head coach John Calipari will need an all-hands-on-deck effort if the Cats want to win their game on the road.

Though Texas A&M has been slumping as of late (losing four of its last five), Danuel House and company can present tough matchup problems for the blue and white on Saturday. House, Jalen Jones and Tyler Davis are all physical big men who have the ability to overpower a struggling UK frontcourt. If the Cats can’t establish a presence in the paint on either side of the floor, the heroics of Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray might not be enough to give UK the W.

Tuesday, Feb. 23 – Alabama (16-9, 7-6) at UK

The Crimson Tide, along with UK, is one of the hottest teams in the SEC at the moment. First-year head coach Avery Johnson has his team rolling on a five game winning-streak, and has developed the Tide from a bottom-tier SEC team to a team that has a chance for a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament.

UK will likely be favored since the game will be played at Rupp Arena and well, UK doesn’t lose at Rupp Arena. The Cats defeated Alabama in Tuscaloosa 77-61 back on Jan. 9, and despite the current surge the Tide is on, expect UK to get the season sweep.

Saturday, Feb. 27 – UK at Vanderbilt (15-11, 7-6)

One of the most disappointing teams in not only the SEC, but also the country, is the Vanderbilt Commodores. It seemed as if Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings finally had all the pieces to make noise in the national landscape of college basketball, however that was not the case.

The Commodores have had an up-and-down year with big wins over Texas A&M and Alabama, but bad losses like to Mississippi State. It’s been hard to predict which Vanderbilt team will show up on a nightly basis, but against UK it would be a safe bet to say the good Vanderbilt given its likely the last chance for a resume-boosting win before Selection Sunday.

Tuesday, March 1 – UK at Florida (17-9, 8-5)

Florida joins Texas A&M and South Carolina in a current battle for third place in the SEC, all standing at 8-5. The Gators get South Carolina, Vanderbilt and LSU before hosting UK, and by that time the two teams could both be competing for first place in the conference.

The Cats handled Florida pretty easily in the first go around, but it is conceivable the outcome will be much closer in Gainesville. A positive for UK is senior Alex Poythress did not play in the first meeting and should be a big boost for the Cats in the rematch.

Saturday, March 5 – LSU (16-10, 9-4) at UK

Possibly the most anticipated meeting left on UK’s schedule, LSU will come to Rupp Arena after upsetting the Cats 85-67 on Jan. 5. Three Tigers had double-doubles in the first matchup, including 14 points and 10 rebounds from star freshman Ben Simmons.

Luckily for UK, it won’t be hard for the Cats’ frontcourt to have better production than it did on Jan. 5 – seven points and nine rebounds between Poythress, Marcus Lee, Skal Labissiere and Issac Humphries. And despite the contest being the final game of the regular season, it could very well have SEC Championship implications.

SEC Standings      CONF            OVERALL

Kentucky                    10-3                20-6

LSU                            9-4                  16-10

South Carolina          8-5                  21-5

Texas A&M                8-5                  19-7

Florida                       8-5                  17-9

Alabama                    7-6                  16-9

Georgia                      7-6                  14-10

Vanderbilt                 7-6                  15-11

Ole Miss                     6-7                  16-10

Arkansas                    5-8                  12-14

Tennessee                  5-8                  12-14

Mississippi State      4-9                  11-14

Auburn                      4-9                  10-15

Missouri                    3-10                10-16