Kentucky Creeps Into the Bracket Discussion

by David Mihm | February 12th, 2008

Heading into a big game against the Vanderbilt Commodores tonight, Billy Gillispie’s team may be one of the hottest in the country (non-Stanford, non-Drake category). Despite a non-conference RPI of 210, which many argued would be Kentucky’s R.I.P., history suggests the Wildcats would be looking awfully strong for an NCAA bid if they can beat Shan Foster, A.J. Ogilvy, et al in Nashville.

By way of comparison, let’s take a look at the Washington Huskies of 2004. Prior to Selection Sunday, I predicted the Huskies would end up with a #10 seed. They actually received an 8, losing a close game to UAB in the first round.

2004 UW resume:
Record on Jan 19: 5-8
Conf Record on Jan. 19: 0-5

Non-Conference RPI: 126
Road/Neutral Record: 8-9
3rd place in Pac-10 (#9 RPI conference that year!)
Record prior to NCAA Tournament: 19-11

3-0 Sweep of Arizona, including Pac-10 Tournament (comparable RPI to Vanderbilt ’08)
Defeated Stanford at home (comparable RPI to Tennessee ’08)

2008 UK resume
Record on Jan 19: 7-9
Conf Record on Jan 19: 1-2

Non-Conf. RPI: 210 (yikes)
Road/Neutral: 6-6?? (projected w/SEC Final berth)
3rd place overall in SEC (#5 RPI conference)
Record prior to NCAA Tournament: 20-12?? (projected 12-4 reg. season w/SEC Final berth)

Defeated Tennessee at home
Sweep of Vanderbilt??

Clearly, Kentucky needs some quality road wins. Their best opportunity is tonight, and they have another opportunity in two weeks at Knoxville. But at this point in the year, I’d go so far as to say they could lose both games, and still be a very compelling bubble team.

The key will be to finish ahead of Florida, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss in the SEC regular season, as the Selection Committee has traditionally been very hesitant to leapfrog teams in regular season power-conference standings. And reach the SEC Final.

After all, we remember the degree to which that feat aided fellow SEC member Arkansas just last year.

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32 Responses to “Kentucky Creeps Into the Bracket Discussion”  

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  1. John Says:

    @ David Mihm. Ugh. I thought that 81-70 OT win was the last we’d hear from Kentucky this year. To their credit, they have played well, but this team is NOT making the SEC Championship Game. They are fortunate that San Diego, Houston, UAB have all played well. It bothers me that teams get credit for close losses. IT’S STILL A LOSS! And kind of ironic you bring up Arkansas from last year, huh?

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  2. Tim Rose Says:

    Good thoughts David. My thoughts on Kentucky are if they can finish 11-5 in the SEC, they’ll be a thorn in the committee’s side. That would leave them at 17-12 overall. I don’t believe any 10-6 SEC team has ever been omitted from the Big Dance but with the Cats poor overall record and terrible losses to Gardner-Webb and San Diego, I think 11-5 is the minimum they can do and they still might need a win or two in the league tourney. Vandy is killing them by 43 right now so the key is for the Cats to finish 5-2 the rest of the way which basically means they probably have to beat Arkansas and Ole Miss which would give them two quality wins and the assumed losses in Knoxville and Gainesville.

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  3. David Mihm Says:

    Tim, I believe that the game against the Gators to close out the regular season is actually at Rupp. Other than that, I agree with you for the most part — the keys for Kentucky, as I said, are:

    - pick up road / neutral wins
    - finish ahead of, or at least tied with, UF, MSU, and Ole Miss.

    Assuming those two points happen,
    - 11-5 with a trip to the SEC Final would probably be good enough.
    - 12-4 with a second-round SEC-T loss might be good enough.
    - 12-4 with a berth in the SEC Final would almost certainly be good enough.

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  4. Dex Says:

    John, in response to the “Atlantic” 10 talk, I know it’s about non-conference too. That’s why I said UMass has a better non-conference resume, but if you look at the rest of their remaining schedule, the only game that matters is at Rhode Island (unless they lose to Fordham or St. Bonaventure). If St. Joe’s wins two out of the three (Xavier being one that they beat) and don’t lose any of the games they should win, they will be more qualified than UMass (especially if UMass loses one that they shouldn’t).

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  5. Tim Rose Says:

    You’re right David. That last game is at Rupp against the Gators and would be fresh on the committee’s minds if the Cats can win that one. That could very well be a must-win. If Kentucky finishes 11-5 and wins 1 or 2 games in the SEC tourney, I think that will be enough. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the committee will be able to wipe away early season hiccups because it doesn’t appear Kentucky will have their entire team healthy all season. Meeks has missed 4 straight games. It will be interesting. You’re right about road/neutral victores. The committee takes those wins very seriously. Being able to win on the road or in your conference tourney separates the good teams from ordinary ones. I think that’s the truest test of a team being able to beat quality teams on the road. Keep up the good work!

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  6. Joe Says:

    @ David

    It’s amazing how a UK team in the SEC could possibly get into the tournament, while teams like ASU, Cal and Washington in the Pac-10 don’t have a chance in hell. I hope my West Coast bias hasn’t gotten in the way for this SEC love fest.

    UK should never have a shot at the Dance unless they win the SEC tournament. The same should apply to ASU, Cal and Washington. I think it’s ridiculous that the Pac-10 and SEC could end up with the same number of bids. The Selection Committee should not reward teams for playing in bad conferences and discount those ones that are playing in good ones. Conference RPI ans SOS must stand for something!

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  7. John Says:

    @ Joe. You are right. Kentucky should be finished(I’m a Florida fan, lucky me.) I am watching the game on replay as I post this. You can’t LOSE BY 41 and still be in consideration for the tournament unless your name is Kentucky. I disagree, however on your other point. No team in the SEC is as bad as Oregon State. The top of the Pac-10 may be better, but overall the SEC is better.

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  8. David Mihm Says:

    @John, having been to nearly a dozen Pac-10 games in person this year, the only way for me to characterize your response would be that “the top of the Pac-10″ includes its first NINE teams! There is simply no doubt that the nation’s best conference is out west this year, and the league is probably as good as it has ever been.

    I will grant you, though, that the SEC is much deeper than I and many other analysts suspected during the pre-conference season.

    @Joe, I’ve said since the start of conference play, that any .500 team in the Pac-10 stands an awfully good chance at making the postseason. Now it is up to one of the three teams you list above to get there.

    For the conference’s sake, it’d actually be good if two of those three reached the .500 level and Arizona dipped below, because the ‘Cats will make the field even with an 8-10 record thanks to yet another mighty non-conference resume.

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  9. Dex Says:

    The 41 point loss is going to make it really hard for Kentucky to be a serious bubble team now. They HAVE to win at Tennessee and win two out of the three vs. Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Florida. I really don’t see that happening, but it could.

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  10. John Says:

    @ David Mihm. I watch a lot of Pac-10 basketball and I admit it is probably the best it has ever been. There are 3 legitimate Final Four contenders(UCLA, Stanford, Washington State.), but after that the other 6 teams(excluding Oregon State) could all lose in the first round. Washington legitimized the depth of the league with their upset over UCLA Sunday, but in some ways the middle is muddled. You say that Arizona could get in at 8-10(which includes ”good losses” to Kansas and Memphis, which I asked you about, but you never answered previously.), but what then with Arizona State, considering they swept the Wildcats? How do you judge Oregon and Cal after their game this past weekend? And you would agree that Washington needs to win the Pac-10 tournament to make the NCAA’s.

    @ Dex. Let’s all be honest with ourselves. If their name was not Kentucky, the talk of this team making the NCAA Tournament would be over after last night. They will not win 2 of those 3 games. You know Tennessee will want payback for the first game they played this year(much like Vanderbilt did yesterday.) Arkansas has an offense similar to Vanderbilt, and we saw how Kentucky handled that. Maybe they’ll win at Mississippi.

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  11. Dex Says:

    John, I agree, I don’t think they’ll win. I’m just saying that they have to win to stay in consideration. I haven’t liked Kentucky all year I don’t think that they’re home wins against Tenn. and Vandy are even enough to consider them as a possible at large. I agree that they wouldn’t be talked about if they weren’t Kentucky, but they are. So I don’t think we should count them out just yet.

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  12. Joe Says:

    I hope that we all can agree that it would be bloody murder if the SEC and Pac-10 get the same number of bids to the tournament. That means something is wrong either the system or the Selection Committee.

    -Winning Percentage-
    Pac-10: .798
    SEC: .745

    -Average RPI-
    Pac-10: .5771
    SEC: .5669

    -RPI Rating-
    Pac-10: 2
    SEC: 5

    -Non-conference SOS-
    Pac-10: 20
    SEC: 16

    Hard to play tough non-conference opponents when the conference has NINE legitimate teams. Also, the Pac-10 played the Big XII this year for at least 1 to 2 games. Most of the games that the Pac-10 played were on the road against the Big XII.

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  13. Joe Says:

    I’m so glad that my posts have been censored in the SEC Mid-Season Review. I will never refer this website to anyone again. I will tell people that the moderators have biased views and are not willing to take any type of disagreement.

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  14. David Mihm Says:

    Joe, your comments received several complaints from loyal readers, and the language you used was offensive and unnecessary. This site has an eight-year track record of objective analysis, and while we are always willing to respond to criticism, we expect the arguments to be civil and rational. Yours was neither.

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  15. Joe Says:

    @ David Mihm

    Perhaps you should read the comments made by the others. I did not use offensive language. Perhaps you should re-read who posted the offensive language. I did not use one word of offensive language in any of my posts. I’ll even copy and paste all of them.

    Objectionable and rational like comparing two teams on the bubble? Like when I compared Arizona and Florida. Then some Florida fans got upset .

    Was it these comments that were offensive by me?:

    “I will enjoy Cats tournament birth, good luck in and enjoy the NIT.”

    “Overrated is losing to the worst team in the your league that our 9th place team killed them at their place. Since all you have got is recent history. Enjoy the NIT, while we enjoy our annual invitation to the Dance.”

    “You just made a fool out of yourself. But you’re an SEC fan, the only ones that know about basketball are UK fans. Since they are the only team in that league that has any established tradition.”

    “Good thing you can list all famous alumni other sports. I did not. Since I only stuck on basketball.”

    “RPI and SOS should matter. If Arizona played Florida’s schedule this year they would have a very good chance of being undefeated.”

    While others have said:

    “way to copy and paste my post under your name. I’m done with the gators now. I can’t support a team that is supported by a lil’ twerp.”

    “Though I do hope Florida and Arizona get together in the tourney so you and Joe can kumbaya together and cuddle up cozy on the couch to watch.”

    “We all have different opinions and that’s what makes this fun. But name-calling is not called for, and respect(only from Joe) should be given, since he’s the only one doesn’t give it.”

    Call me crazy, but I did not say one offensive word. If NIT and fool are offensive words, than I am guilty as charged. But, much vulgar things have been said by others.

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  16. David Mihm Says:

    Joe, I understand that you want to be free to express your opinions, and I want EVERYONE who reads this site to do so as well. Comments are NOT moderated ahead of time for this very reason.

    I’d like to move on from this discussion rather than re-hash. Please just show a little more courtesy in future comments.


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  17. Brian Says:

    The Wildcats suffered a huge loss recently, losing sensational Freshman forward Patrick Patterson. With a 63-30 loss Sunday to Tennessee without Patterson, I think that means something. They have 10 wins in the SEC with 4 loses. I can see them winning tonight against a tough South Carolina team, and win Sunday at home on Ramel Bradley and Joey Crawfords senior night at Rupp Arena. I think it will be a good game, but will be a special one, for our beloved senior leaders. Then, maybe, we could get 2 wins in the SEC tournament, and I dont’t see how they could leave us out of the tournament. We would be 12-4 in SEC play. We have beaten a possible #1 seed Tennessee, we beat a possible #3 seed Vanderbilt, and a tough Florida team. We had a tough early season, non-conference start, but that was because of the injuries to Jodie Meeks (GREAT!!) and Derrick Jasper. If the NCAA selection committee needs more than that to put us in, we have history. I know it sounds wrong, but last year did we really deserve to be there? I didn’t think so, so this year we really do, we really do. But lets go Cats in the next 2 weeks. We’re pulling for you

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  18. Doug Says:

    Maryland in – and a 10 seed? Pass some of that over here – ohhhhhhh yeah that’s good stuff.

    Kentucky shouldn’t be in yet, IMO, but if they win their last 2 games, plus 1 in the tournament, yes. Can’t overlook that awful OOC play.

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  19. Brian Says:

    the ooc was pretty bad but we have some excuses. We had Jodie Meeks, Jasper, and most importantly Patrick Patterson all out at one point. Plus coach Gilispie was not in sync with his players yet.

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  20. JAY BIRD - HOG FAN Says:

    You’ve got it all wrong. Kentucky doesn’t creek in. Kentucky is creeps.


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  21. JAY BIRD - HOG FAN Says:

    You’ve got it all wrong. Kentucky doesn’t creep in. Kentucky is creeps.


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  22. gail stone Says:

    I’m not real sure how some things play out,but their are other teams with records
    like kentucky that are not even being considered. one arguement from an espn
    spokesperson mentioned that kentucky’s wins were only against teams that records weren’t the best and these teams are at the bottom of their conference.
    so these really aren’t key wins.
    from a concerned fan!

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  23. gail stone Says:

    I’m not real sure how some things play out,but there are other teams with records
    like kentucky that are not even being considered. one arguement from an espn
    spokesperson mentioned that kentucky’s wins were only against teams that records weren’t the best and these teams are at the bottom of their conference.
    so these really aren’t key wins.
    from a concerned fan!

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  24. David Sims Says:

    Go 12-4 in the SEC…. you’re in!

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  25. Brian Says:

    gail you make no sense at all. With wins over Florida Tennessee and Vanderbilt how can we not have good wins. Going 12-4 in the SEC is pretty good for any team.

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  26. David Mihm Says:

    @Brian and Gail –

    Brian, I edited your comment; please avoid personal comments and keep things courteous.

    I think UK does have enough quality wins; as I said on ESPN Radio Louisville today, the issue is that none of them are away from Rupp, which makes winning a game in the SEC Tournament on a neutral floor more important than it might otherwise be.

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  27. Billy Clyde Says:

    Kentucky is a lock for the tourney even if they lose by 100 to Georgia. Most brackets have them as an 8th or 9th seed. Any “concerned ” fan such as Gail that makes ridiculous unsubstantiated statements about a phantom ESPN spokeperson saying that Kentucky has wins “only against teams that records weren’t the best and these teams are at the bottom of their conference”(Her Quote). How uninformed does that sound?

    How can you have a 12-4 record in a conference “ONLY” against teams with bad records? In fact, the only team with a winning record that Kentucky did NOT beat was Mississippi State. But they did beat Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Arkansas and Florida.

    So THOSE are the facts and all of you Kentucky haters need to look forward to the Cats making the tourney again in spite of TUBBY running the greatest basketball program in the country, with the most wins in history, into the ground for the last 10 years with his lackluster recruiting and his unispired philosophy on offense which was the reason he couldn’t recruit with the top programs in the 1st place! If TUBBY was still at Kentucky they would be lucky to win 12 games for the WHOLE SEASON!

    I am not making any stupid predictions about how they will do in either the SEC tourney or the the NCAA tourney but they will play in BOTH and they will play hard and with HEART even without Patrick Patterson. And Billy Clyde will have them ready for next year and beyond where he will restore UK back to the level that Rick Pitino left it for Tubby. That being a realistic chance of a National Championship in most years. Not just a pipe dream. And definitely more than 1 final four in 10 years. From an “INFORMED” fan.

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  28. Brian Says:

    Billy won SEC coach of the year as well Gail. How do you think he won that? By winning against bad teams? No, he beat the powerhouse of Tennessee and the 2 time defending National Champs. Are you even a Kentucky fan? If you are, you should become more informed. Even just reading http://www.ukathletics.com will keep you informed.

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  29. Tennessee ATO Says:

    UK’s resume isn’t as wonderful as many make it out to be, IMHO. The home wins over UK and Vandy were clearly “very good” wins. The stuff UK has going against it is the 4-7 record away from the friendly confines and the 5-10 record against the RPI top 100. And the 2 horrible early-season losses are hanging around UK’s neck like an albatross.

    I think UK needs to dispatch UGA today (should be easy) to have any kind of a shot. The Ole Miss and UAB losses certainly helped UK.

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  30. Billy Clyde Says:

    Georgia has somehow conspired with God, so they don’t have to play the Wildcats. They hope that Kentucky will just pack up and go home. In response to Tennessee ATO saying that Kentucky should “EASILY” defeat Georgia. Is that as “EASY” as Tennessee beating South Carolina? Watch your overconfident rear end my friend, it might just come back to haunt you. Regardless, Kentucky is in the NCAA tourney no matter what they do against Georgia, no matter when the game is played. Anybody that thinks otherwise is living in a dream world or doesn’t know what they are talking about or both. Kentucky haters had better get us when we are a little down, because it wil be Hell to pay when Billy Clyde gets the Kentucky juggernaut going again and gets rid of the Tubby hangover. Bank on it.

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  31. Billy Clyde Says:

    AS I stated EMPHATICALLY several times. Kentucky is in BABY!!!!!!!! How do you like that Kentucky HATAS. Hope Tubby enjoys the NIT.

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  32. Brian Says:

    Cats are in against a less than stellar Marquette team. Get over it. Can’t wait till Billie gets the train rolling and the Cats are back at the #1 position, as so many of our faithful fans are used too

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