At the beginning of this week, the Kentucky Wildcats were 13-5, 4-2 in the SEC and facing a daunting week ahead.
First, the Wildcats had to visit No. 16 Ole Miss at the Tad Smith Coliseum in Oxford. The Rebels were one of the hottest teams in the country, and featured the conference's leading scorer in Marshall Henderson.
It looked like a tough situation for a young team that had recently lost on the road at Alabama, in a game they probably should have won. After falling in Tuscaloosa, the Wildcats had to hold off a pesky LSU team, winning 75-70 in Rupp Arena.
In Oxford, Kentucky was able to keep Henderson in check, as he hit only 5-of-19 from the floor and scored 19 points. Kyle Wiltjer had a career high 26 for Kentucky and Archie Goodwin added 24 as the Big Blue won 87-74.
But Kentucky could not rest on its most recent victory. Staring them in the face was a trip to College Station to face Texas A&M, a team that had beaten the Wildcats 83-71 in Rupp Arena just three weeks ago. In that game, it was the Aggies' Elston Turner who stole the show, scoring 40 points, one of the best games ever by an opponent in Rupp Arena.
On this Saturday, it was Kentucky that appeared to be the better team. Kentucky raced out to a big lead, but A&M held the lead down, and was able to tie the game at the end of regulation, sending it to overtime.
In the extra period, Kentucky turned not to one of its talented freshmen, but to senior transfer Julius Mays, who scored 19 points, including five in overtime, to seal the win for the Big Blue.
Kentucky led by one point with 15 seconds left in overtime, when Mays hit two free throws to make the lead three. Mays then did a great job guarding Turner, who missed a tough three-pointer. Mays was fouled and he hit another free throw to seal the game for the Wildcats.
Not to be overlooked, freshman sensation Nerlens Noel had a career-high 19 points, while adding 14 rebounds, three assists, two blocked shots and a steal in 41 minutes of action.
The results of this week prove that Kentucky, with an RPI of 48 before Saturday's game, is clearly an NCAA Tournament team. The Wildcats hold their own destiny in front of them. They need to continue to beat the teams they are supposed to beat, as well as beating Missouri (No. 32 RPI) and getting a win against Florida (RPI No. 7) at home to get into the field of 68.
Before this week, those wins didn't seem possible, but if Kentucky continues to improve, they could not only make the field of 68, they could make some noise in March.