As the Kentucky Wildcats look to take on the Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday at noon in the season finale, all eyes are on March. The SEC tournament and the NCAA tournament are right around the corner. The ‘Cats are looking at high seeds in both postseason contests.
UK has the top spot in the SEC tournament clenched as well as the regular season title. Even if the ‘Cats lose at A&M, they still have those accolades in the bag. They are 15-2 overall and hold the tie-breaker over the Florida Gators.
But the focus of Big Blue Nation, John Calipari, and his Wildcats is on the Big Dance. Right now Kentucky is slotted as a two-seed in both Joe Lunardi's and Jerry Palm's latest round of Bracketology with an outside chance of ascending to the one line depending mostly upon what Gonzaga and North Carolina does to finish the season.
If the ‘Cats take care of business on Saturday and head to the SEC title game, they will be no worse than a two seed and the one seed is still in reach.
Taking all of this into consideration, there are detractors that insist that Kentucky's resume isn't good enough to even be considered as a one seed and they are more of a borderline two than a lock. Unfortunately for them, those numbers just don't add up.
Let's break it down to make it easier for those folks, shall we?
Conference Record: 15-2
Home Record: 16-2
Road Record: 6-3
Neutral Court Record: 4-0
Regular Season Title: Won the SEC
AP Rank: #9
RPI Rank: #8
Kenpom Rank: #7 (Adjusted Offense-14, Adjusted Defense-12)
Sagarin Rank: #5
Record Against the Current Top 25: 2-4 Losses (#1 Kansas, #3 UCLA, at #8 Louisville at #12 Florida), Wins (#5 UNC- Neutral Court, #12 Florida)
Record Against RPI top 25: 2-4 Wins (#3 Florida, #6 UNC-Neural Court) Losses (#2 Kansas, at #3 Louisville, at #7 Louisville, #15 UCLA)
Record Against RPI 26-50: 5-0 (#28 South Carolina, #29 Arkansas, #45 Michigan State, #48 Vanderbilt- twice)
Record Against RPI 51-100: 8-1 Wins (#51 Georgia- twice, #63 Valparaiso, #74 Ole Miss, #81 Tennessee, #85 Texas A&M, at #86 Alabama, #90 Auburn) Losses (at #81 Tennessee)
Record Against RPI Top 100: 15-5
All the numbers show you that Kentucky should be a two seed in the tournament and no worse than a three seed. If the ‘Cats finish the regular season undefeated, they can rack up one more road win, and three more neutral court wins against RPI top, 50 teams.
Right or wrong, the selection committee relies heavily on the RPI. Even if you go by Kenpom ratings or Sagarin ratings, Kentucky has almost identical records using those metrics when compared to the RPI.
Something else the committee absolutely loves is neutral court games because the NCAA tournament games are all neutral court affairs. UK has a sparkling record in those scenarios and a jewel of a win against North Carolina. If UK ends the regular season and the SEC tournament with a 7-0 neutral court record, then a two seed is a lock, and the one seed is very much a reality.
Many pundits and even some fans have been down on this team for a while. Yes, there was a stretch where Kentucky was in a funk, but there were many factors that played into that, including injuries and illnesses, particularly related to De'Aaron Fox.
The bottom line is that the ‘Cats have won. One can talk eye test all one wants, but at the end of it all, the numbers and the record don't lie. Kentucky belongs in the conversation when elite teams are being discussed.
And finally, I'll take my chances with a Hall of Fame Coach and three NBA players on my team against the field.