LONG SHOT ALERT: How UK Could Still Make the Big Dance
Don't look now but the University of Kentucky Wildcats are on a three-game winning streak and have pushed their record to 8-13 and 7-7 in the SEC.
Re-reading that sentence, it looks like I'm being sarcastic, but I'm really not. I have a method to my madness. Oh, wait a minute...did someone say MADNESS? As in MARCH Madness?
Look, let's not kid ourselves. Kentucky has dug itself a hole. That 8-13 record is actually the worst overall record among teams in the SEC. But those eight wins include decisive victories over teams that will very likely be in the NCAA Tournament--Florida, Tennessee, and LSU. The played presumptive 2-seed Alabama very closely, and even had a lead, in Tuscaloosa before the Crimson Tide pulled away. And then there's the one-point loss to Arkansas--a group playing probably as well as any SEC team not named Alabama, at the moment. Yep, the Razorbacks are also a likely NCAA Tournament team.
First, a loss is a loss is a loss and the tournament committee isn't giving UK an at-large bid this year. But I'm looking at those narrow defeats Kentucky has suffered this season, coupled with the impressive victories it HAS collected and I'm wondering about that automatic bid.
Now, in order for Kentucky to snag it, the Wildcats will need to win the SEC Tournament. It's really going to be the only way it happens for them this year.
Kentucky would have to finish in the top four of the conference to get the double-bye. That would require three wins in three days to win the league tournament. Thing is, Kentucky doesn't have enough games left on its schedule to make the top four, even if they win them. There's only two at this point, unless they figure out a way to make up the Texas A&M game. That one was set for Tuesday, February 23rd, but has been postponed due to COVID issues in the A&M camp.
So Kentucky's best bet is a single-bye, requiring four wins in four days. Tough task. Tall order. You name it. It would be hard.
If it came to it, could they finally beat Alabama after being swept in the regular season? Could they notch a SECOND win over the likes of Tennessee, Florida, or LSU?
Again, Kentucky does NOT have an easy path to the NCAA Tournament.
I'm just saying they also do not have an IMPOSSIBLE one.