John Calipari's Kentucky basketball team still needs a win against a Top 50 opponent.
Video: Steve Andress and Eric Crawford from the Kentucky Dodgeball Championship...of Kentucky - click here.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The dodge ball diversion was a splendid touch by John Calipari. A fist bump for that. Wiffle Ball sounds like a blast, too. The noise level needed to be dialed down around his Kentucky basketball team. Mission accomplished.
The dog days of college basketball are here. Crafty coaches have been known to stop practice in February to serve their players hot fudge sundaes and brownies. It's a great time to remind everybody that it's a game, not the eve of the apocalypse.
But let's not rush to proclaim that Kentucky is ready for the Oklahoma City Thunder because of a four-point win over a football school like Vanderbilt. The Wildcats still have considerable work to do to make the NCAA Tournament.
Vanderbilt's road record in the Southeastern Conference this season is now 1-5. Missouri beat them the Commodores by 22, Arkansas by 23.
I've checked the list of 10 teams Vanderbilt has beaten this season. Five of those teams have a winning record. Not one is likely to play in the NCAA Tournament.
There's a reason that Vanderbilt's RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) number is 144 – tied with Richard Pitino's Florida International team.
Wednesday night was actually a mixed bag for the Wildcats. They added a win against Vanderbilt, but they are dealing with the continued devaluation of their victory at Mississippi.
The win at Oxford doesn't sparkle the way it did three weeks ago now that the stumbling Rebels have lost five of their last seven, including by one at South Carolina Wednesday night. Kentucky still lacks a victory over a Top 50 RPI opponent. Ole Miss now carries an RPI of 56.
Kentucky's RPI is 47. Middle Tennessee and Southern Miss are the only other Top 50 RPI teams without a victory over a Top 50 RPI opponent.
The Wildcats need to change that Saturday night in Rupp Arena against Missouri, in a game that ESPN's Dick Vitale calls, "a Must Win."
The Wildcats need to back it up against the paper Tigers, another team that reaches for the Alka Seltzer on the road. The Tigers are 1-5 on the road in the SEC – if you consider winning at Mississippi State significant.
In Missouri's other five road games, the Tigers have been outscored by more than 10 points per game.
Using Jeff Sagarin's predictor ratings, Kentucky will be favored by three Saturday.
Losing to Vanderbilt would have put Kentucky in the position of having to win the SEC Tournament to play in the NCAA Tournament.
But beating Vanderbilt leaves the Wildcats in the position of still needing a quality win. Or two. There's no dodging that.