In John Calipari’s first three seasons in Lexington, he was able to win 13 NCAA Tournament Games, make two Final Fours, and win one National Championship. However, his team is in danger of missing the tournament for the first time – which would be just the 5th time for the program since 1980.
Kentucky’s profile is one of the most confusing of any bubble team:
Record: 12-6 (3-2)
Best Win: Maryland (72-69) Neutral Floor
Best True Road Win: Vanderbilt (60-58)
The discrepancy between the KP/Sagarin ratings and the SevenOT/RPI rankings is in UK’s Margin of Victory. UK’s record and strength of schedule are not outstanding, but their margin of victory is (18.2 ppg). The RPI only looks at wins and losses – so UK isn’t given extra points for winning big. I believe their rank in my system (SevenOT) is lower because several of their wins have been very close (Vandy, Maryland) and some of their losses have not been close at all (ND, Duke, Baylor).
Projecting Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament chances would be easier if the Wildcats had a marquee win away from Rupp (or even a marquee win at all). A common cliche surrounding the NCAA Tournament is that there are no road games in March, as all games are played on a neutral floor. However, anyone that’s ever seen the Blue Mist understands what a “neutral” site game is like for UK.
Kentucky will have several chances over the next few weeks to pickup some quality wins. With road games against Ole Miss and Texas A&M, home games against Missouri and Florida, and a game or two in the SEC tournament, there will be plenty of chances for UK to pick up a couple marquee wins. I believe Kentucky will be able to pick up enough wins against the SEC bottom feeders (Auburn, Vanderbilt, Miss State, Georgia, LSU) to makeup for their shortcomings against the elite teams earlier in the year, and put themselves in position to earn a bid.
Prediction: 22-11 (13-7) and safely into the tourney as a very dangerous #9 seed.