Florida-Kentucky Preview

Patrick Patterson isn’t quite ready to say he’s ready to move

on.

Yet listen to the Kentucky junior superstar talk, and it’s clear

he’s running out of reasons to stay.

When Patterson opted to return to Kentucky for his junior year

last spring rather than enter the NBA Draft, he said he was doing

it because he wanted to get his degree, play in an NCAA tournament

game and help the Wildcats win the Southeastern Conference

title.

Check, check and check.

Patterson will graduate in May and the third-ranked Wildcats

(28-2, 13-2 SEC) are a virtual lock to be a No. 1 seed when the

NCAAs begin in two weeks. And a win over rival Florida (20-10, 9-6)

on Senior Day at Rupp Arena on Sunday and the Wildcats will have

their 44th SEC title all to themselves.

Though he hasn’t ruled anything out, Patterson opted to join in

on the Senior Day festivities along with teammates Mark Krebs,

Ramon Harris and Perry Stevenson “just in case” he wasn’t around to

soak it all in next year.

“I have received my degree, and my whole family is coming in to

see me graduate,” Patterson said. “As far as taking the next step

to the NBA, I’m not sure about that yet.”

Patterson probably won’t be the only non-senior possibly making

his final bows in front of the Big Blue faithful on Sunday.

Freshman stars John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins are considered by

most experts to be among the top players in the country and even

coach John Calipari isn’t holding out much hope that they’ll come

back for their sophomore years rather than head to the NBA.

Calipari joked Wall and Cousins won’t participate in Senior Day

because “it’s kind of hard to graduate in one year,” but admitted

after Kentucky’s 80-68 win at Georgia on Wednesday that it would be

difficult for them to pass up the NBA considering both are likely

Top 5 picks.

Patterson’s tenure has been a test of his patience and a tribute

to his perseverance. He chose Kentucky over Florida because of the

chance to play close to his hometown of Huntington, WV, and the

opportunity to lead the Wildcats back to national prominence.

It took a little longer than he planned.

Patterson was a breakout star his freshman year only to suffer a

leg injury a couple of weeks before the NCAA tournament and miss

the rest of the season. His sophomore year he stoically kept his

head while the program imploded around Billy Gillispie, who was

fired after Kentucky failed to make the NCAAs for the first time in

nearly two decades.

Patterson admits it’s hard not to think about what might have

been.

“I would’ve liked it to work out a lot better, from coming in my

freshman year with my ankle injury and all the hardships we had

last season,” he said. “I’d like to take away some of those things,

but I’m satisfied with the choice that I made.”

Especially this year. Patterson has made it a point to delegate

to some of his freshman teammates in an effort to fit in. While his

scoring average (15.0) and rebounding average (7.6) are both the

lowest of his career, he’s never been happier. The Wildcats are

winning and restoring some of the luster it once had.

One more win and the Wildcats will have their first outright SEC

title since 2005.

“We believe that we deserve the SEC title and we don’t want to

share it,” he said.

If they can beat the Gators, they won’t have to. Kentucky pulled

away for an 89-77 win in Gainesville on Jan. 12, though Calipari

says Florida is much improved.

“It’ll be a hard game,” he said. “I mean the game down there was

hard. It was a tie game with a few minutes to go. Eric Bledsoe went

absolutely crazy. Daniel Orton played out of his mind, if you

remember he blocked three balls in one possession. So, we had one

of our best efforts, and barely beat them.”

It will be an emotionally charged atmosphere. Patterson expects

the waterworks to flow from Harris and isn’t sure if he’ll be able

to keep his emotions under control. Not that it matters. He’s come

a long way.

“All in all Kentucky was the best choice for me, and I’ve loved

every moment of being here,” he said.