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Joe Lunardi believes UK can still get an at-large bid to NCAA Tournament

Far easier said than done.

NCAA Basketball: Bluegrass Showcase-Richmond at Kentucky Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

After a 5-10 start to the 2020-21 season, it feels like any hope of the Kentucky Wildcats getting an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament are long gone, meaning they would have to win the SEC Tournament to get in.

However, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi says that isn’t the case.

In an ESPN roundtable Wednesday morning, Lunardi said that the Cats still have a path to getting an at-large bid, but they have to beat the Texas Longhorns in Rupp Arena Saturday night.

“I’m not willing to write Kentucky’s obituary unless the Wildcats lose on Saturday to Texas. If that game was to somehow fall into the win column, a path remains — however narrow — for Kentucky to receive positive at-large consideration. It’s a high-level, nonconference win the Cats simply must have. In the meantime, Big Blue Nation has to endure — perhaps for the first time under Calipari — an overrated recruiting class and an underperforming set of veterans.”

John Gasaway was also part of the roundtable and he too believes that the Cats have a pulse and a shot at making the Tournament.

“Kentucky has a pulse, barely, because the calendar is still the Wildcats’ friend. It’s still January. But, yes, this is a steep hill to climb at 5-10 and with a NET ranking that, at tipoff in Tuscaloosa, clocked in at No. 80. If you’re an optimist in Lexington, you note that Kentucky made Alabama look way, way worse than the Crimson Tide did against Arkansas and LSU. Maybe Calipari can build on what was an undeniably strong defensive performance, but that building needs to start right now. Who knows, maybe Clarke will return from his foot injury and key an eleventh-hour resurgence.”

On the other side of the isle sits Jeff Borzello who may have the much more realistic view, but he believes the Cats are done.

“If by finished, you mean they won’t make the NCAA tournament, then yes, they’re finished. The Wildcats have shown flashes of life, beating Florida by 18 on the road and LSU by 13 over the weekend, but I have no faith that they can string together enough consistent performances to win the SEC tournament. And to think about an at-large bid, they would probably have to go 9-1 or thereabouts the rest of the way — that’s just not happening.”

Regardless of what happens, as of right now the ship is still barley afloat but the path to the NCAA Tournament relies on getting a massive win on Saturday. If not, then Kentucky will have to go win the SEC Tournament to get in.

The Cats and the Longhorns tip off Saturday night at 8 pm ET, and it will air on ESPN.

Be sure to read the entire ESPN piece for more insight into the Cats and other college hoops topics.