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Monday, December 3, 2012
Poll Thoughts: The Lexington plummet

By Eamonn Brennan

College hoops polls might be inconsequential noise, but that doesn't make the arguments any less fun. In that spirit, I present the creatively named Poll Thoughts, which you can expect every Monday until the season is over.

Last week, we spent a few words lamenting the UCLA Bruins, whose mediocre start, punctuated by a dramatic come-from-ahead home loss to Cal Poly, caused them to rightly free-fall out of the Associated Press Top 25. (The coaches kept them in, of course, because coaches' poll voters don't actually keep up with this whole basketball thing. Ugh.)

Anyway, the key takeaway was this: The then-11th-ranked Bruins' departure from the Top 25 made them the second-highest ranked team since the advent of the modern (25-team) AP poll in 1990 to fall all the way out of the rankings. The only team ranked higher? No. 9 Missouri in January 2011.

A week later, we have a new recordholder.

Last week, Kentucky was ranked No. 8 in the polls. This week, the Wildcats are unranked. That makes them, according to ESPN Stats & Info's Jeremy Lundblad, the highest-ranked team ever to fall out of the poll in just one week's time. The new leaderboard looks like this (see chart at right).

How did this happen? Well, Kentucky went to South Bend on Thursday -- a game I had the good fortune of attending -- and was unsurprisingly snuffed out by a much smarter, savvier, veteran Notre Dame team playing in a rowdy gym, riding a wave of infectious campus enthusiasm. That loss was one thing; it shouldn't have been shocking to see a team this young take its lumps in its first true road game.

Saturday was a different matter entirely. Kentucky lost at home to unranked Baylor -- a Baylor team that had previously lost to Charleston, a Baylor team that is young in its own right, a Baylor team that didn't even play all that well in Rupp Arena but still won. Kentucky really did play that poorly. The Wildcats' offense is a bit of a mess -- the team needs a true point guard, Nerlens Noel doesn't have a low-post game, Alex Poythress is hot and cold, Kyle Wiltjer went 1-for-11, and even Archie Goodwin, by my lights the best player on the team, is far too prone to just put his head down and drive to the basket and hope he gets fouled. Forget comparisons to last year's incredible team. This group is, at least right now, the worst team Calipari has coached at Kentucky, and probably his worst team since the 2005 Memphis Tigers, who went 22-16.

That doesn't mean the Cats will stay that way, of course. I doubt it. But for now, in a world that has in some ways been dominated by Kentucky basketball for the past three seasons, and almost exclusively dominated by it the past 12 months, all of a sudden Kentucky basketball is losing games at home, falling out of the polls, and just generally having a bad week.

Kentucky basketball? Bad week? Error, error, does not compute.

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