Commentary

Kentucky still a dangerous team

Updated: February 10, 2011, 4:17 PM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

Down at Kentucky, the fans have an incredible passion for their team. Many of those rooting for the Wildcats, including some that visited me at my office away from home at The Broken Egg, complained about the fact the team has six losses already. Of course they were happy with the recent home win over Tennessee, but they still brought up the six defeats.

I sat there in absolute amazement. Kentucky is 17-6 and it has lost four incredible heartbreakers on the road in the final seconds. This is a team who fell to North Carolina, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi in maalox mashers, baby! Chris Warren knocked down a trifecta to lift the Rebels in the final seconds. Against the Gators, Kentucky had a shot to win the game in the end and came up short and the matchup with the Tide also came down to the wire.

It is unbelievable to see the transition from a team which lost five players to the first round of the NBA draft. Let's face it, this is a young Kentucky team with three key diaper dandies in Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb who are all freshman.

But people want instant gratification and success. The expectations for this club to be a powerhouse is unbelievable.

For Kentucky to win and make a solid run come tournament time, it must look back at the film of the game against Tennesse. In order to beat quality teams, the veteran players, or maybe I should simply say the upperclassmen, have to step up and contribute.

Against the Vols, Kentucky spoiled the SEC return of Vols coach Bruce Pearl, who came to Lexington in the orange jacket! DeAndre Liggins had a career-high 19 points. Josh Harrellson came through as well with 16 points on the interior. Liggins and Harrellson don't have that much playing experience, especially compared to Darius Miller, but they are key to the Wildcats' success.

Any time you recruit the quality talent that John Calipari does, and you have that changeover in personnel, people have to understand that it takes a little time for familiarity to set in.

Let me tell you, this is not a vintage Wildcats club like last years team. Last season, It had incredible quickness and post play inside with DeMarcus Cousins and strong baseline and interior play from veteran Patrick Patterson. This year's team doesn't have that blinding quickness and game-breaking ability John Wall provided.

Despite all of that, this is still a dangerous team, with quality personnel. Look at those six Ls and realize that they came on the road, in hostile environments where Big Blue had a target on its back.

Calipari has said his main concern is preparing his team for the NCAA tournament and he knows how to get the most out of his players. Trust me, they will be ready and difficult to handle come March.

I understand the frustration of fans over six defeats. But believe me, It doesn't frustrate fans more than it does to Calipari.

If Kentucky fans look at the stats from the Tennessee game, they will understand that this is a positive and if duplicated in the big dance, it could equate to success.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.