Kanter was ruled ineligible, but the Wildcats managed to finish second in the East and earn a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament.
“It could have happened, so maybe I am smarter than even I think I am,” said Dean, who is working as a TV analyst for the SEC Network’s coverage of the tournament.
Still, Dean knows a 22-8 record and a second-place finish in the division is not the standard UK fans want. He learned that when he was on Joe B. Hall’s coaching staff at Kentucky and has seen it reinforced during his years as an analyst.
“I think they have such a high standard at Kentucky and it is so off the charts, that anything less than a dominating SEC season and top-10 ranking is disappointing to Kentucky people,” Dean said. “I think the reality is when you look that they did not get Kanter eligible, and they played six guys and three are freshmen, albeit very talented, but even talented freshmen struggle at this level. For them to do what they have done is very good. It’s not great, but it is very good.”
Dean expects Kentucky to make the SEC title game Sunday, and the Wildcats are his pick to win the tournament.
“I think they are the team to beat here in Atlanta because of the bracket and the way they are playing,” he said.
“I think that win in Knoxville Sunday gave their team a shot in the arm. You know how it is. Everybody is saying, ‘No, they can’t win on the road. They are losing all the road games.’ So last game of the year they go to Knoxville against a very good team on senior day with all the emotion and they win.
“They come in here and this place (the Georgia Dome) is going to be full of Big Blue people. And they are still Kentucky. They still expect to win. I like their bracket and the fact they are opposite Florida. I just think when it comes right down to it, they are going to find a way to win it.”