Surprise - UK Hoops could win the SEC

When your record is 20 wins and three losses, it's hard to be overlooked in college basketball. But when your counterpart is one of the most hyped teams in the country with a 23-1 record, that tends to happen.

When your record is 20 wins and three losses, it's hard to be overlooked in college basketball. But when your counterpart is one of the most hyped teams in the country with a 23-1 record, that tends to happen.

Coach Matthew Mitchell has done a great job in rebuilding the University of Kentucky's women's basketball team, also known as UK Hoops. Kentucky has reached the top 25 for the first time in more than three years and is currently ranked number 16 by the Coaches' Poll and number 17 in the AP Poll.

"It's exciting for our program to be ranked in the national polls but like I've said before the ranking we want to be in is the top 64 and that's the 64 teams who get invited to the NCAA Tournament," said coach Mitchell.

Coach Michell's performance this year and turnaround from last year to this year is one to be commended. Kentucky was 16-16 last year in Mitchell's second year at UK as head coach, following a 17-16 season the year before. But Mitchell built on his post season appearances in the WNIT the last two years and has this team poised to make an NCAA Tournament appearance.

Led by juniors Victoria Dunlap and Amber Smith and freshman A'dia Mathies, UK Hoops has climbed to a 8-2 conference record and are currently sitting second in the SEC behind Tennessee.

Coach Mitchell's squad has achieved these heights with good defense, holding opponents to just 36 percent from the field overall and forcing an astounding 24 turnovers per game. Kentucky has outscored their opponents on average 77.3 to 56.9 this season. And they aren't just beating up on scrubs.

They defeated in-state rival Louisville by 34 points back in December. They defeated Vanderbilt by ten last month and won at LSU last week for the first time since 1995, which stopped a losing streak to the Lady Tigers of 16 games. They also defeated Mississippi State by 10 points in Starkville.

Currently the Lady Cats are on a seven game winning-streak, dating back to January 17th. This streak has consisted of nothing but conference games and the seven game win-streak in conference is the longest such streak in UK Hoops history.

With the 8-2 conference record, there are still six more games left on the schedule before post season play begins. UK has three home games and three road games. Two of the three road games are against currently ranked opponents (Tennessee and Vanderbilt). They also face Georgia at home, who defeated them earlier this year 61-60 in overtime. The final home game this year is against South Carolina on February 21st. South Carolina was the last team to beat Kentucky this year, defeating them in Columbia 79-71 on January 14th.

Coach Mitchell knows the work isn't done and the Lady Cats' goal of an SEC Championship is still within reach. But that title won't come without hustle and a proven work ethic. "It is always fresh on our mind that if we don't come in day-in and day-out and do what is necessary we are certainly capable of getting beat," said Mitchell. "It is a good group to coach right now and they are really hard working team,"

"I am very proud of what this team has accomplished so far but we have our sights set on the NCAA Tournament and we have to win more games to get there," said Mitchell.

Up next for UK Hoops is Georgia at Memorial Coliseum on Thursday night at 7 Eastern. The game will be available on Fox Sports South.


Follow KSR on Twitter
Discuss on WildcatChat

AllWildcats Top Stories