Memorial Coliseum, Nashville, Tenn. I’ve never been to a game here, so that’s always exciting. Of course, it’s an arena unique in college basketball, with the sideline seats sunk down at court level, kind of like an orchestra pit.
We’re seated in a suite midway up in the stands, which is actually almost a better setup than sitting on the sideline — for everything but hearing interaction during the game.
And boy, is Vandy shameless in its advertising. I just saw an ad for The Princeton Review on its scoreboard screen.
That was sarcasm, by the way.
I don’t think you can call this a “must” win for Kentucky, because the Wildcats can still do some damage at Tennessee. But this is an important game for another reason.
Kentucky needs to validate its resurgence on the road against a ranked team.
Now, there are plenty of NCAA Tourney teams who haven’t had a road win against a ranked team. There are also plenty of NCAA Tourney teams who haven’t lost at home to Gardner-Webb and San Diego.
Those losses mean UK has to go above and beyond for the rest of the season.
UK SID Scott Stricklin points out an interesting tidbit — since 1992, no SEC team with a record of 10-6 or better has been left out of the Big Dance. (Georgia had a better conference mark than that one year, but backed out of the SEC tourney because of an academic flap.)
But can conventional wisdom apply to UK? None of those SEC teams probably had a losing non-conference record.
So if it seems UK is going to be judged on a higher standard over the next month, it’s not just your imagination. It’s reality.
The other night in talking with Lachlan McLean on WHAS radio, I said that every loss now for Kentucky is another nail. And that’s a fact. But a loss at Vandy wouldn’t be the final nail, while a win here on national TV could throw the door wide open.
This is one of five national TV appearances UK has in the final month of the season. It’s in those games that the Wildcats can re-make their national image.
We’ll see what happens.