Home » Blog » No Consolation?

No Consolation?

For 68 college basketball teams, life is pretty sweet right about now. For a lot more, life sucks.

There’s one team feeling the bite of missing the NCAA tournament more than any other though. For the Kentucky Wildcats, Selection Sunday came with the stark realization that the 2012-13 season was a failure. Whichever way you spin it, Kentucky wasn’t good enough to make the tournament, and that represents failure in Lexington.

The fact that the Wildcats will not be defending last year’s national championship is a downer for players, coaches, school officials and fans alike, while those of us on the outside looking in will feel a twinge of remorse that we won’t see that defense either. Well, some of us. Those unfaltering critics of the “one-and-done” policy will probably be laughing all the way to next season.

Kentucky celebrations in 2012 quickly turned into commiseration in 2013.

Kentucky celebrations in 2012 quickly turned into commiseration in 2013.

Of course, there are those that still believe the Wildcats were good enough for the tournament. At 21-11, Kentucky finished with a better record than Villanova (20-13), Oklahoma (20-11), Minnesota (20-12) and California (20-11), as well as finishing tied with Colorado (21-11). All of those sides received an at large bid for the NCAA tournament.

In reality though, only a diehard fan could pick the Wildcats over any of those sides.

Villanova and Minnesota competed in the ultra-competitive Big East and Big Ten conferences respectively. That’s where the best basketball was played this season and both proved worthy of the tournament throughout the year. California came within one win of the Pac-12 title, securing some big wins along the way. Colorado proved to be a tough out, upsetting every team at the top of the conference.

An argument could be made that Oklahoma’s season was not as good as Kentucky’s, but the Sooners benefited on Selection Sunday from playing in the Big 12, a conference that was also better than the SEC this season.

And therein lies the problem; the SEC may well dominate football but its basketball conference was far from strong. You need only look at its tournament entrants (Florida, Ole Miss, Missouri) to see that. Three is the fewest number of teams any of the ‘Power Six’ conferences are sending to the tournament. In fact, the Atlantic 10 is sending five sides to the big dance.

The weakened conference reputation creates an additional hurdle for those teams that aren’t clear cut selections.

Even if you remove Oklahoma from the picture, the likes of Iowa, Maryland and Alabama probably deserved a tourney berth more than the Wildcats.

Essentially, any argument that Kentucky should be in the tournament is weak at best. In all scenarios, Kentucky misses out on the tourney for just the second time in 22 years.

Losing Nerlens Noel was a huge blow but not the only problem in Lexington.

Losing Nerlens Noel was a huge blow but not the only problem in Lexington.

So, now the Wildcats move on to the 2013 National Invitational Tournament – starting tonight – to try and salvage something from the season.

It’s hard to imagine anybody connected to the school seeing that particular tourney as any kind of consolation though. If John Calipari felt that the SEC tournament wasn’t worth playing, how do you think he’ll feel about the NIT?

Kentucky does have a NIT tournament win under its belt, but you have to go back to Joe B. Hall’s 1976 side to find that honor. Of course, the Wildcats are more familiar with the NCAA tourney, and have only played in two tournaments since that mid-70s win.

In 1979, the side lost to Clemson in the first round.  Then in 2009, the Wildcats – playing under Billie Gillespie for the final time – entered as a No. 4 seed and knocked-off UNLV and Creighton before falling to Notre Dame in the quarterfinals.

What this year brings remains to be seen.

Kentucky will be joined by Southern Mississippi, Alabama and Virginia as a No. 1 seed in the 32-team field. Tennessee – another SEC bubble team that narrowly missed out – will also appear in the tournament, as will Iowa and Maryland, two more sides that looked close to having a potential place in the NCAA tournament as the season wound down.

10 regular season conference winners – Stony Brook (America East), Mercer (Atlantic Sun), Charleston Southern (Big South), Long Beach State (Big West), Northeastern (CAA), Niagara (MAAC), Norfolk State (MEAC), Robert Morris (Northeast), Stephen F. Austin (Southland), Louisiana Tech (WAC) – received automatic bids to the tournament after losing in their respective conference tournaments.

With Rupp Arena booked for NCAA tournament play, Kentucky will play its opening game against the Robert Morris Colonials at the Sewall Center in Moon Township, Pa., just outside of Pittsburgh on Tuesday (7:30 PM ET).

The Wildcats will enter that game as a 5.5-point favorite.

From there, John Calipari’s side will (maybe) look to win the tournament before heading back to the war room to blueprint a better season next year. Whether the likes of Nerlens Noel will return remains to be seen. Will the school decide that its “one-and-done” retooling strategy needs to be looked at? Definitely. Will it decide to change that tactic? Probably not.

One thing’s for sure, when Kentucky takes to the court next season, it’ll be primed and ready to go. There’s no way this school is going to let itself miss out on a second straight tournament. Unlike this season though, you can bet that bookmakers won’t have the Wildcats as the preseason favorite.


2013 National Invitation Tournament

Bracket A

1. Kentucky (21-11)

2. Baylor (18-14)

3. Arizona State (21-12)

4. Providence (17-14)

5. Charlotte (21-11)

6. Detroit (20-12)

7. Long Beach State (19-13)

8. Robert Morris (23-10)

Bracket B

1. Southern Miss (25-9)

2. Tennessee (20-12)

3. BYU (21-11)

4. Florida State (18-15)

5. Louisiana Tech (26-6)

6. Washington (18-15)

7. Mercer (23-11)

8. Charleston South (23-11)

Bracket C

1. Alabama (21-12)

2. Maryland (22-12)

3. Denver (21-9)

4. Stanford (18-14)

5. Stephen F. Austin (27-4)

6. Ohio (24-9)

7. Niagara (19-13)

8. Northeastern (20-12)

Bracket D

1. Virginia (21-11)

2. Massachusetts (21-11)

3. Iowa (21-12)

4. Saint Joseph’s (18-13)

5. St. John’s (NY) (16-15)

6. Indiana State (18-14)

7. Stony Brook (24-7)

8. Norfolk State (21-11)


First Round: Mar. 19 & 20

Second Round: Mar. 21 – 25

Quarterfinals: Mar. 26 & 27

Semifinals: Apr. 2*

Final: Apr. 3*

*To be played at Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

  • 100%