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How will Jarred Vanderbilt injury affect Kentucky Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament?

UK may wait to announce how severe the Vanderbilt injury is until after the Selection Sunday Show, and for good reason.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats have lost Jarred Vanderbilt to yet another injury, though it’s unclear what the severity of this one is.

Vanderbilt’s long history of significant foot and ankle injuries does have to make you wonder if this one isn’t just as severe, which would be a brutal blow for both the freshman forward and his team.

Initially, UK announced that Vanderbilt’s injury is day to day and he may not practice Wednesday. That update would seem to indicate it’s not serious, but there’s reason to believe we won’t know exactly how bad it is until next week.

But why? Why would UK not go ahead and announce how severe it is, especially since the injury happened in a practice in the middle of Tuesday?

Because of the selection committee.

On Sunday, the NCAA Tournament field of 68 will be revealed, and UK is projected to make it as a 5 or 6 seed with an outside shot at earning a 4 seed. But if Vanderbilt’s injury is enough to hold him out for several weeks or even months, then the committee would drop UK by a seed line or more.

The committee takes injuries into account and how teams perform without said players. There’s no question UK is at its best with Vanderbilt, so losing him would probably cost UK at least one seed line and probably more.

If UK were to announce Vanderbilt is out indefinitely, then lose their first SEC Tournament game following the debacle in Gainesville, it’s not crazy to think the committee could drop them as far as an 8 seed.

And could you really blame the committee?

Based on what we’ve seen of this UK team this season, they probably would have ended up with a seed in the 8-11 range if Vanderbilt didn’t play. Vanderbilt has been the team’s best rebounder and arguably its best defender, so losing him could cripple UK’s hopes of making a deep postseason run.

In the end, UK needs to win at least one game in the SEC Tournament, and probably two, just to lock up a 5 seed. It feels like Vanderbilt’s injury has taken a 4 seed off the table unless he returns this weekend.