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Bob Dixon

Agency Manager


Middlesboro, KY 40965


Go Big Blue!

JAMIE H. VAUGHT: 2022-23 Wildcats Get A Report Card

It’s time for a report card for the 2022-23 edition of UK men’s basketball team.

After its disappointing 75-69 loss to Kansas State Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Kentucky concluded its up-and-down campaign with a 22-12 mark.

Kentucky All-American Oscar Tshiebwe meets with the media in the locker room after UK's loss to Kansas State Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Greensboro, N.C. (Photo by Jamie H. Vaught)

Moments after the NCAA tourney loss, UK coach John Calipari had this to say. “Tough way to end. We had some guys really fight like crazy and then had a couple of guys offensively not play their game the way they played all year, but that stuff happens in this tournament.”

So, looking at the overall picture, how well did the Wildcats fare this winter? What grade should they get?

In my opinion, for the most part, to earn a grade of “A,” the team obviously should reach the NCAA Final Four. A national championship would mean a grade of A plus (A+). A trip to the Sweet Sixteen likely will give you a “A-” grade.

That means UK won’t getting a grade of “A” this time.

A “B” grade is good. Getting a “C” grade is nothing special, meaning the team is just average.

Before the campaign, you’ll recall the Wildcats were a popular preseason Top 5 pick with the return of 2021-22 National Player of the Year in Oscar Tshiebwe, who recently was named consensus All-American for the second year in a row.

But they got off to a slow start in nonconference action, losing to marquee teams like Michigan State (86-77 in two overtimes), Gonzaga (88-72) and UCLA (63-53). Kentucky did defeat Michigan 73-69 in London, England but the NIT-bound Wolverines had a down year, finishing with an 18-16 overall record (11-9 in Big 10).

For UK, winning all three of its rivalry games with Louisville and Tennessee was very nice. Speaking of UT, Kentucky stunned the Vols twice by scores of 63-56 and 66-54, including a trip to Knoxville, when Tennessee was ranked No 5 and No. 10, respectively.

As you know, Tennessee coach Rick Barnes and the Vols are still alive in the NCAA Tournament. The No. 4 seed Vols are in Sweet Sixteen this week, meeting No. 9 seed Florida Atlantic Thursday in New York City.

Other UK’s season highlights include remarkable road victories against Vanderbilt (69-53) and Arkansas (88-79), and a blowout victory over Coach Bruce Pearl’s Auburn club at Rupp Arena. Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament win over Providence in Greensboro, N.C., was nice, too.

Yes, I agree the season was kind of frustrating at times. Since Kentucky is the gold standard of college basketball (along with few other big-name schools like Kansas, etc.), we sure expected the talented and experienced Wildcats to excel this past season.

And the Cats fell short of making a Sweet Sixteen trip Sunday. It was a very disappointing day, and the Big Blue Nation expected more from this likeable team. As a sportswriter, the players, however, were personable and fun to cover.

But UK finished at No. 26 in the all-important NCAA’s NET rankings (which replaced Ratings Power Index four years ago) and it's really nothing to be ashamed of during the current days of college basketball’s increasing parity and changing landscape.

So, what overall grade should we give for the 2022-23 edition of the Kentucky Wildcats?

I don’t think you can call them average, especially with the team’s winning percentage of nearly 65 percent. Therefore, a “C” grade is out of the equation.

How about a “B” grade? Perhaps. To put things in perspective, the Wildcats really did have a good team. Not great but okay.

But because of the school’s tradition-rich history and the fans’ high expectations for excellence, how about a grade of B minus (B-), just barely above average?

I think a “B-” grade sounds reasonable.

If you think it’s too generous, just blame it on grade inflation.

Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime sports columnist in Kentucky, is the author of six books about UK basketball, including newly-released "Forever Crazy About the Cats: An Improbable Journey of a Kentucky Sportswriter Overcoming Adversity." He is also the editor and founder of Magazine, and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro. You can follow him on Twitter @KySportsStyle or reach him via email at


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