January 11, 2022
One of the weird things about Kentucky’s 9-16 vomit fest that was the 2020-21 season is that it seems to have reset expectations for that program to a more realistic level for John Calipari’s post-2015 progam. Kentucky hasn’t returned to the Final Four since then and has only made the Elite Eight twice in five seasons in which the tournament was contested and yet, here were the Wildcats’ preseason rankings in those years: 2, 2, 5, 2, 2, 10.
This season, they started out ranked 10th, and yet, in spite of not doing anything particularly egregious during a 12-3 start (losses: Duke on a neutral court and road losses to Notre Dame and LSU), they’ve spent most of the season on the fringes of national consciousness. Honestly if you took any power conference program and gave them Kentucky’s performance to date, they’d probably be ranked... well, about where Kentucky is right now (18th.) It’s the rare season when KenPom’s computer is higher on Kentucky at this point in the season than AP and coaches’ poll voters are.
All this is to say, well, Vanderbilt has a chance tonight. Granted, that chance dissipates if they play at the level they did against South Carolina on Saturday; a rough approximation of the performances against Arkansas and BYU that preceded it, though, and this one is winnable. The Commodores have lost ten in a row to the Wildcats dating back to February 2016, and they’re 4-20 since John Calipari took over.