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What UK needs to do to make the NCAA Tournament

The margin for error is very slim.

Oscar Tshiebwe Dylan Ballard - A Sea Of Blue

Many looked at Saturday’s loss to the Georgia Bulldogs and immediately wrote off the Kentucky Wildcats, but it’s probably far too early to say that they’re done as far as NCAA Tournament bids go.

They have a glaring absence of Quad 1 wins, but that could very soon change, as their next four games are all likely to fall in the first quadrant and provide chances to beef up a very paltry resume. Here’s what they need to do going forward:

1. In the 6 remaining regular season games, go 4-2 with 3 Quad 1 wins

They have to beat Vandy in the home finale of course, but in the other five (all Quad 1 currently) they have the opportunity to use road games to make a case for the committee. That’s why tonight’s game against Mississippi State is a huge opportunity—it’s Quad 1 because it’s on the road against a semi-good team.

Playing on the road makes a huge difference, and the Cats have never lost in Starkville under Calipari. If they can keep it that way it’ll go a long way toward dancing on Selection Sunday. Going 4-2 in the final six will give them a 20-11 finish with an 11-7 record in the conference. That’d be hard to keep out, especially if they beat Tennessee again.

2. Win the first SEC Tournament game

Can’t lose the first one, especially if it’s against sub-par competition. If they are the 5 seed they absolutely must beat the 12, which won’t do much for the resume but will be another W at any rate, but a loss could derail everything right at the finish line. If they are the 4 and play the 5 a loss might not doom them, but a win there against Auburn or another Quad 1 team would definitely help them a lot. A big enough run might keep them from having to play in Dayton as well.

3. Hope for teams ahead in the bracket to lose and for few bid thieves

Basketball is always played with a bit of luck, and not everything will be in the Cats’ control over the next few weeks. Winning games while other teams are losing will make things a lot easier for them, though, and reaching the SEC Tournament with a couple of spots to spare in the bracket will definitely help them hold off the bid thieves.

What it really will all come down to is fight: they need to give it everything they’ve got and win the SEC games in front of them right now. Beat Mississippi State, then focus on Tennessee and Florida, then on Auburn and Vandy, and so on until Selection Sunday. Better to know you gave it your all than look for excuses. Let’s play ball.