Will UK beat Tennessee? Magic 8-ball says...

By the time Kentucky faces Tennessee Sunday, the team will already know if the game means Kentucky can earn the SEC East # 2 seed and the coveted bye in the SEC Tournament next week or not. Cats need a win over UT, but first either a loss by Vanderbilt to Florida in Nashville, or a loss by Georgia to Alabama in Tuscaloosa, both games being played on Saturday. Will UK beat Tennessee?

Will UK beat Tennessee? Let's shake the Magic 8-ball, but talk about it a bit first.

Kentucky has struggled on the road all season. Although they defeated cross-state rival Louisville decisively in the Yum! Center in December, since that time their road record has been woeful, an abysmal 1-6 in the Southeastern Conference. Meanwhile, the team has flourished at home, going undefeated in Rupp Arena for the 2nd consecutive season under John Calipari.

The game against Tennessee is, unfortunately, in Knoxville.

The games on the road have generally been very close ballgames--another area in which Kentucky has generally suffered this season. Prior to Tuesday night's 68-66 victory over Vanderbilt--at home--the Wildcats were 0-6 this season in games decided by 5 points or less or overtime. Last season's version of the Wildcats were 8-0 in the identical close games.

There's a theory that Kentucky just needed some confidence in winning a close game. Against Vanderbilt, there were some plays made down the stretch that give a UK fan hope that they can pull another one out.

  • Cats hit 7-8 FTs in the last 1:36 of the game.
  • Josh Harrellson, playing his final home game as a Kentucky Wildcat, blocked a Vanderbilt shot with 0:24 remaining that would've given the Dores the lead.
  • Five seconds later, Harrellson also captured a crucial steal as Vanderbilt was attempting to overcome a 64-63 deficit.
  • As time expired, Harrellson's defense caused Vanderbilt's Festus Ezeli--the game's leading scorer with 22 points--into mishandling a pass that ended in Harrellson's hands as the buzzer sounded.

    Is that enough of a confidence booster to enable the Cats to win another close one, this time on the road? Tennessee has extreme motivation to win--it's Kentucky, which is generally enough by itself. It's Senior Day. Tennessee is precariously perched, according to most, around the 10/11 seed line, and not far from out of the NCAA tournament field.

    All we can do is to consult the Magic 8-ball. It has been shaken, turned over, and....

    I guess we have no choice. Tipoff is scheduled for 12:00 noon ET in Thompson-Bowling Arena, and will be televised by CBS.

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