Vanderbilt beats Kentucky, adds fifth top-50 RPI win to enhance resume

There are times when Kentucky looks like one of the nation’s best teams thanks to a backcourt led by two of the nation’s best guards, and I wouldn’t want any part of John Calipari’s Wildcats on a neutral court in next month’s NCAA Tournament.

But they’re still fundamentally flawed.

And they’re still vulnerable against almost anybody.

And they’re now 3-7 in true road games — and in possession of six losses to schools ranked outside of the top 50 of the RPI — thanks to Saturday’s 74-62 loss at Vanderbilt.

Yep, Kentucky just lost at Vanderbilt.

So the Wildcats dropped into a tie for first with Texas A&M in the SEC with just two games remaining — Tuesday’s contest at Florida followed by Saturday’s regular-season finale vs. LSU. If you’re curious, a shared SEC championship seems likely. But, win or lose the league title, UK looks like a team that’ll be in the 3-4-5-6 range in terms of its seed in the NCAA Tournament, which means UK is going to be a super-talented 3-4-5-6 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and an unfortunate matchup for somebody.

But we’ll figure that out later.

For now, let’s focus on Vanderbilt.

Because Vanderbilt is turning into an amazing story.

The Commodores were 8-7 overall and 0-3 in the SEC seven Saturdays ago, just a mess offensively and in general. But they’ve now won three straight and 10 of their past 14 to move to 18-11 overall, 10-6 in the SEC. And they suddenly have five top-50 RPI wins.

That’s strong for a bubble team.

And it’s why Vanderbilt is likely on the right side of the bubble right now.

The Commodores have at least two future NBA Draft picks — Damian Jones and Wade Baldwin IV — who are finally playing like NBA Draft picks, and that has changed the direction of this team. Jones got 15 points and eight rebounds against a UK frontcourt that was completely overmatched. Baldwin added 14 points and six assists in 36 minutes.

Neither, in fairness, was as spectacular as Kentucky’s Jamal Murray, who scored 33 and eclipsed the 30-point mark for the third time. But both were plenty good enough. And now Vanderbilt, similar to Kentucky, looks like a team that’ll be dangerous in the NCAA Tournament even if its seed, determined by its uneven résumé, might suggest otherwise.

Vanderbilt strengthened its tourney chances by beating Kentucky. (USATSI)
Vanderbilt strengthened its tourney chances by beating Kentucky. (USATSI)

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