Twice in recent weeks athletics director Mitch Barnhart has made somewhat supportive public comments about Smith. However, rumors continue to swirl about his future.
"Just as I said earlier, everyone is evaluated at the end of the year. Some get evaluated during the year. I'll sit down with athletics director Mitch Barnhart and (UK president) Dr. (Lee) Todd, and whoever else, and we'll cross that bridge when the time comes. I expect to be back, let's put it that way," Smith said after Sunday's game.
His players believe him, especially with the way he's been with them recently.
"Coach Smith said we did a good job today. Nothing negative, just all positive, looking forward to next year," freshman Perry Stevenson said.
"I think he loves his job. He loves the challenge of coaching for Kentucky," junior Joe Crawford said.
* Will center Randolph Morris be back?
Morris, UK's best player, was non-committal after the game. He didn't duck questions after whether he would use his free agent status to seek a deal with a NBA team. However, several NBA scouts have recently said Morris probably would be attractive to several teams.
While Morris refused to say he was leaving, he did nothing to stop the speculation. Kentucky's best hope is that he truly enjoys being at Kentucky or that he feels he owes Smith for taking him back two years ago after he tried unsuccessfully to jump to the NBA. "All we can do is hope he is back," said freshman Derrick Jasper.
* What happens to Crawford and Ramel Bradley in NCAA Tournament play?
Against Kansas, Crawford was 4-for-12 from the field and had 12 points, four assists and two steals. Bradley was 1-for-6 from the field and had three points, nine assists and six rebounds.
In eight NCAA games the last three years, Bradley is 10-for-34 from the field and only 2-for-19 from 3-point range. Crawford is 14-for-49 from the field and 4-for-22 from 3-point range. Those are not numbers that win games. "I wish I could explain it," Bradley said. "Tonight I had to play a lot of point guard, so I was just concentrating on distributing the ball."
He did, but for UK to be a better team next year, Bradley and Crawford have to be better big-game players.
* Can UK's freshmen make significant improvement?
Jodie Meeks developed into a dependable scorer and better defensive player. He struggled Sunday and was only 3-for-13 from the field and scored 10 points - his eighth straight game in double figures. But with the way Crawford and Bradley were struggling to make shots, he had to take shots - and even force a few.
Derrick Jasper started 26 games, but he has to become an offensive threat. He took only 78 shots in 33 games was only 3-for-13 from 3-point range. A big-time college guard has to be able to shoot.
Forward Perry Stevenson has to add strength. Point guard Michael Porter has to improve his ballhandling skills. Ramon Harris still needs to adjust to Smith's system. "They had a lot of pressure on them, but that will make them better next year," Crawford said.
* Will UK land the two big recruits it needs?
Add forward Patrick Patterson and point guard Jai Lucas to next year's team and UK could be vastly improved, especially if Morris returns. Lose those two players and the Cats could be NIT-bound.
"We could be very good next year," Bradley said. "If we get the new guys I think we'll get, we could really be good."
Just like Kentucky could have been better this year. What if Sheray Thomas had not moved on the free throw line? That would have been a win over Mississippi State. What if Morris had played better at Alabama and had not cost UK two points with offensive goal-tending? That might have been a win. What if late mistakes had not turned a win at Vanderbilt into a loss? That win could have vaulted UK to second place in the SEC Eastern Division and a higher NCAA seeding that would have avoided a confrontation with a No. 1 seed in the second round.