Upset Saturday: Cowboys and Gamecocks Pull Off Shockers
The Kentucky Wildcats, who began the season ranked #1 in the nation, were beaten on Saturday by the South Carolina Gamecocks 72-67. That is not so stunning in the fact that UK has now lost three of its last five games. But what is stunning is the fact that despite landing what was considered to be the greatest class in NCAA hoops history, this very young team is playing worse as the season goes on. It was thought that they would have growing pains in the beginning of the season but would be unstoppable come March. Well, they are very stoppable on March 1st as evidence of the 17% from the floor in the first half against a Gamecocks team that is 11-18 and 4-12 in the SEC.
Two seasons ago, it appeared that Calipari was fast becoming the basketball version of Nick Saban. His formula was the same as Saban’s in that he would land the top recruiting class and then compete for a national championship. In his first three seasons at Kentucky he made three trips to the Elite Eight, two to the Final Four and one national title in 2012. But last season’s stellar class never panned out as star center Nerlens Noel was lost in February and the rest just never played up to the hype. UK suffered the indignity of missing the NCAA Tournament altogether, then was embarrassed by being bounced out of the NIT in the first round against Robert Morris.
Five games ago, the Wildcats had College Game Day in the house as they were hosting the Florida Gators. A win would have pulled them to within one game of the SEC lead and they would have their destiny in their own hands the rest of the way. But they lost for only the second time in an SEC game since Calipari’s arrival five seasons ago. Since then the wheels have come off. They have lost another SEC home game and were seconds away from yet another. Suddenly this team more closely resembles last year’s team than Cal’s first three.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys have been up near the top and then went through a terrible stretch when they lost seven straight games at one point and endured the ugly incident that saw star player Marcus Smart suspended for having an altercation with a fan of the Texas Tech Red Raiders. But the Cowboys, who are squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble, got a huge win last night over the Kansas Jayhawks 72-65. Smart was 0-7 in the first half for one point, yet the score was only 26-25 Jayhawks. That was a good omen for the Cowboys.
Smart took over in the second half with 20 points in the second half as the Cowboys had 47 points after halftime. Oklahoma State overcame a 10-point deficit in the second half as they ran their record to 19-10 and 7-9 in the Big 12. Despite the loss, it appears that the Jayhawks may have moved into a number one seed as the Syracuse Orange lost once again. The Virginia Cavaliers routed them by 17 points to claim the ACC regular season championship for the first time since Ralph Sampson patrolled the paint in Charlottesville.