Kentucky basketball: Is this rock bottom for John Calipari’s Wildcats?

Kentucky basketball is in uncharted territory after a 1-3 start to the season.

Expectations in Lexington are usually sky high for Kentucky, one of the nation’s most intriguing teams every year thanks to excellent recruiting work by head coach John Calipari. The Wildcats were ranked 10th in the AP’s preseason Top 25 (and ninth in FanSided’s preseason rankings), but they have looked bad for the first two weeks of the year.

A loss at home to Richmond raised some concerns but the alarms started sounding after Kentucky’s second-half collapse against Kansas in the Champions Classic. The Wildcats showed an ability to make an impact defensively thanks to the incredible length of their starting lineup but managed to lose despite holding the Jayhawks to just 29.9 percent shooting from the floor.

Things got worse over the weekend when unranked Georgia Tech blew out the Wildcats by 17, marking the second time in three games that Kentucky lost by double-digits to an unranked team, only the third time in program history that has happened. Calipari is now 1-3 for the first time since the 2000-01 season and saw a 17-0 streak against his former assistants get snapped when Josh Pastner led the Yellow Jackets to victory on Sunday.

Kentucky basketball is off to the worst start in the Calipari era

The scary part is that Kentucky was actually more productive offensively in the Georgia Tech game, knocking down 44.9 percent of their field goal attempts while knocking down eight of their 20 three-point attempts. The defense let the Wildcats down in that game as the Yellow Jackets knocked down 51.7 percent of their field-goal tries, a stunning turnaround from Kentucky’s dominant defensive performance against Kansas five days earlier.

Inconsistency can plague a young team but it has been a long time since Kentucky has looked this bad. The shortened regular season offers fewer opportunities for the Wildcats to right the ship, especially with a tough SEC schedule still looming.

Calipari did challenge his team in the non-conference schedule and there are still matchups with Notre Dame, Louisville, UCLA and Texas coming up. Those games do provide opportunities for Kentucky to improve its NCAA Tournament resume but come with a potential downside of stacking up losses when the Wildcats are trying to find the right rotation.

It’s not unusual for a team to look very good on paper and fall flat. North Carolina experienced an awful season a year ago, losing Cole Anthony to an injury early and sinking to the bottom of the ACC with a string of brutal losses coming along the way. Calipari will need to be careful to avoid having his young team follow the path the Tar Heels took since the Wildcats’ inconsistent play and brutal schedule indicate that there is still plenty of room to fall for Kentucky.

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