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An Unpleasant “Would You Rather?” Scenario


WARNING: This post contains depressing content meant to inspire heated debates. The issue may be painful, difficult or thought-provoking!


In the aftermath of Nerlens Noel’s injury, we’ve heard that Kentucky will be evaluated going forward without him by the NCAA tournament selection committee. Essentially, the rest of the season has been deemed a tabula rasa, a blank slate for the Cats to paint any picture they want in the remaining six regular season games. Obviously, we’re hoping for 5-1, or 4-2 (assuming we lose at home to Florida and either to Mizzou or at Arkansas) and at least two wins in the SEC tournament to hopefully secure an NCAA tournament berth.


However, the world of bracketology isn’t as optimistic as we are (ah, who am I kidding, I’m one of the few, the proud, the only optimistic people when it comes to the rest of this season). In Matt’s mock selection committee that he and other media members attended this week, Kentucky failed to make the NCAA tournament as an at-large bid or conference champion. According to Mr. Jones, who speaks for America, the Cats were most harmed by their lack of “signature wins” (I guess the committee didn’t look too favorably on the Ole Miss win, considering their recent meteor-like crash and burn).


And so we remain on the proverbial bubble, knowing the barring a miracle SEC Tournament Championship run, our place in the post-season is anything but secure. Even with a strong end-of-season showing, we probably can’t expect anything higher than a ten-seed, and many analysts have been hypothesizing about an all “blue bloods” First Four. In his latest Bracketology after yesterday’s game, Joe Lunardi deemed the Cats one of the “First Four Out,” making it seem like an optimistic stretch to think that the Cats would even make it in as one of the play-in games. So my question, the one that’s been keeping me up at night in between repeated viewings of Tubby Smith dancing and eating the fruit from my extra Edible Arrangement, is this: would we as Kentucky fans rather see Kentucky as a play-in team, but lose that first game OR win the NIT? 


Either scenario could easily happen at this point, so at the very least we can prepare ourselves for the possibilities. I’ve conducted a very unofficial poll among my friends and Twitter followers (one that my psych teachers in undergrad would shake their heads at, concerning my unstandardized methods and bulky question wording), and my estimated results show that most of you would rather lose a play-in game than win the NIT. I’ve had a trickier time deciding, so let’s talk out each scenario.


Why We’d Rather Lose A Play-In Game:

-At least we made it to the Big Dance, right? For Kentucky fans, making the NCAA Tournament, no matter how low a seed we are, is a matter of pride and dignity in our storied program. Accepting a bid to the NIT means publicly admitting that Kentucky’s season has failed and we were a second-tier program this season. We’re Kentucky- we only raise Final Four banners or higher, not NIT banners. As one commenter put it, “We aren’t Vandy.” Well said, Gandalf the Blue. Well said.

First Four games are in Dayton, Ohio this year- a mere two and a half hours away from Lexington, giving fans a final chance to send the team off right and at least enjoy one game in the NCAA atmosphere- even if it is a play-in game.

Play-in teams > NIT teams, in terms of quality. Presumably, at least, the Cats would get one more quality game in before the end of the season. Also, with the undisputed parity in college basketball this season, we could end up playing a team with a profile similar to ours- lots of talent but some bad luck down the stretch. As an end of season learning tool, it could be a lot more valuable to lose to a decent team than steamroll a few sub-par teams en route to an NIT championship.


Why We’d Rather Win the NIT

-It’s still a championship. Maybe, after the weird season we’ve had, BBN isn’t in the mood to discriminate. Let’s end the season on a high note and accept a title, no matter how it comes. And, as Drew pointed out on the radio show yesterday, it’d be kind of cool to win an NCAA Championship in 2012, an NIT championship in 2013, and (presumably) an NCAA Championship again in 2014. With next year’s class, it’s actually pretty probable.

More games means more chances for the Cats to hit their Dougie without Nerlens. One of the biggest complaints about the team this year is their inconsistency from game to game and even within games- not knowing how to finish off blowouts, starting second halves slow, going for stretches at a time playing stupid basketball and not subbing themselves when they’re tired, etc. And without Nerlens, the Cats are going to have to learn how to play basketball together all over again with a mere seven regular season games left. With more games to play in the post-season, the Cats could finally get in the groove we’ve been waiting for all season and play some entertaining basketball, like the kind we got spoiled by all last season. Be honest, that would be a sight for sore eyes at this point.

Momentum heading into next season. Thanks to Ally Tucker for pointing this out. Ally told me that she generally only thinks the NIT is a good thing for young teams who need momentum and experience heading into next season. At this point, we’re operating under the assumption that Ryan Harrow and Kyle Wiltjer are coming back next year, possibly with Willie Cauley-Stein joining them (for the sake of brevity I won’t get into the they shouldn’t go/but they will go argument regarding Goodwin and Poythress). Having extra games to gel and build team chemistry and leadership could be invaluable next season, especially with a young recruiting class and a potentially all-freshmen starting five. One of the early questions about this team that proved a recurring problem was “Who is the leader?” It took the Cats way too long to figure out that Nerlens was the leader of this team, and now we won’t have the luxury of his actual presence on the court to guide the Cats. With an extra five games in the NIT, we may finally see Ryan Harrow stop being “cool” and start being a leader, or see Wiltjer encouraging the team on the floor, or see Willie’s hustle play inspire the rest of his teammates. And those extra games of experience and development could give our already-scary team a leg up next year.

Fun. Come on, admit it. I want to see this team laughing and smiling on the court like last year’s team, and maybe giving up the snobbery and enjoying an extra five wins would be just the thing. Also, the NIT finals are in New York, home of Jack Demsey’s. I KNOW y’all wouldn’t hate that.


Going into writing this post, I had pretty much decided that I’d rather lose a play-in game than win the NIT, but honestly, I think I’ve now written myself into the opposite opinion. I’m wondering if Calipari would call me “selfish” for wanting the team to lose an NCAA play-in game rather than win an NIT championship that may prove more beneficial to the players. Basically, it’s a matter of pride as fans- and making the NCAA tournament by any stretch is infinitely more acceptable than winning the lowly NIT. That said, I’ll probably change my mind again here in the next hour. What say you?



Article written by Kristen Geil

58 Comments for An Unpleasant “Would You Rather?” Scenario

  1. Yeti
    7:05 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    Lets just hope we beat Vandy this week.

  2. doug jones
    7:05 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    I would rather go to the N.I.T. It would be good for the bench on next yrs team to get some experience.

  3. Wise guy
    7:08 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    At this rate we will do neither.

  4. Duuuuuude
    7:08 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    I would like for Cal to say we will not except an NIT bid. As far as I am concerned, it is like storming the court, making commemorative t-shirts, or recognizing a regular season victory in a trophy case. We should expect to play in the big dance only.

  5. Shawn
    7:10 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    Id prefer the NCAA tourney. Then, atleast we made the dance. Id hate to look back when Cal Is gone and we failed to make the tourney one time. Who Is to say we would even win the NIT? Even If we wont Its still like saying we are the best team that was below average. These arent the Gillespie years, It was embarrassing getting beat In the NIT that year.

  6. MarchMethod
    7:12 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. I mean is it really rational to believe we could win the NIT tournament. I say let it all ride on making the NCAA or bust. Some much needed adjustments are going to have to be made in order to keep games close. I see one of two scenarios: 1) we slow down possessions to the end of the shot clock. 2) we play roll it out AAU ball with no instruction and only substitutions from the bench

  7. harry
    7:12 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    im not sure if we can win nit.

  8. PA Cat
    7:17 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    I can’t believe so many words have been used here to say nothing! This whole discussion is about “How do you dress up a pig?”. If creating a series of unachevable expectations is entertaient-Have at it! The fat lady has sung……even as the best of fans we have to be realistic! Come on, Man!

  9. mudcreekmark
    7:18 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    You all are dreaming.There is no way we make it into the NCAA tourney and if we make it to the NIT no way we can even win it. We probably would loose the first game of NIT. Have you been watching the games? We are bad. Even with Noel we were bad, now we are terrible. Not being negative just being truthful.

  10. Bubba Earl
    7:19 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    Let’s face it, our only hope is to win the SEC Tournament as to have the opportunity to play in the BIG TOURNEY!!

  11. Usernametaken
    7:21 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    This is how far we’ve sunk? Rationalizing how good an NIT appearance is? Jesus Christ. Are we going to storm the court and make popcorn boxes if we win it?

  12. Twixt
    7:22 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    I agree with 6, play AAU style. Let the team know that the player getting the rebound is to take it down and shoot. AP would get his normal 2 shots/bounds, AG would be way off on shots. KW may never get another shot. Dream on BBN, this team is bad–point blank period. I have had 17 broken hearts this season, so many times believed we were turning the corner to only fall flat again. Lots of those were with AG charging something. Bad team, No to the NIT and the season is over. No way we go to the NCAA. NO I am not a troll, I am a realist.

  13. Doubting Thomas
    7:31 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    Here is my advice to everyone. Let Cal coach! Let the players play! And as fans all we can do is support our team. All the complaining and pointing fingers isn’t going to do anything to help our team. Our team will either step up or roll over. Nothing we can do to help but cheer and let our voices be heard supporting our team. Go Cats!!!!!!

  14. hoo ha
    7:32 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    As if either is likely. May still end up sneaking in to NCAA somehow, no way we’d win the NIT. This team couldn’t put together 3 or 4 good games in a row to win any tournament.

  15. what
    7:38 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    This entire post operates under the assumption that the NIT will be full of teams like Lipscomb or Lafayette or high-school level teams…you cant write an entire post under the assumption that this Kentucky team would somehow steamroll their way through a tournament. Our longest winning streak of the year was 5 games, and that ended very poorly. Do you really think that this team could put that together in a tournament? I love this team still, and I dont think everything is quite as bad as everyone seems to think…but putting together a 5 or 6 game game winning streak, especially in a tournament-atmosphere seems optimistic to the point of foolishness. I can only hope Im wrong and we end up sneaking into the NCAA tourney as an 11 seed or something and end up staging an epic run to win!

  16. CMTransy
    7:41 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    #15 is right. This team isn’t going to the NCAA absent the rest of the conference being obliterated before Nashville. They can’t win the NIT, either. Hell, they couldn’t win the girls Sweet Sixteen.

  17. Bruce
    7:42 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    We always want to be in the NCAA. And what makes anyone think we could win the NIT? We got drubbed by TN. I would rather go out early in NCAA than NIT.

  18. Tony
    7:43 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    I find it beyond my wildest expectations that you could ever think these NAGS could win the LIT, let alone the NIT

    7:47 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    I agree with 15, no way we can win an NIT, which is fine with me. The NIT has become a joke, in the sense that the media uses as a way to make fun of teams that don’t make it in. I would much rather lose a play-in game.

  20. Joe
    7:47 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    Win the NIT? Can someone say DELUSIONAL

  21. Frankthetank
    7:48 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    Am I the only one that realizes we very well could end up not qualifying for either tournament? Anything is possible but after watching this team play all season and even more importantly reading the post game comments, I would be surprised if we win two more games this season. Harsh reality.
    However, we are still defending National Champs AND we will return to form next season. These guys don’t make the grade as one and dones. But add them to next years recruiting class and next season could get interesting!

  22. duh city
    7:50 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    The fact that you think this is a “debate” is why you shouldn’t be writing here.

    I would rather get beat by 45 in the first found of NCAA than win the NIT.
    The NIT is embarrassing.
    If we lose in the NCAA, other fans say “haha you sucked this year”…. and we move on.
    If we go the NIT – we don’t live it down. The Billy G references…

    When we don’t make the NCAA this year, CAL declining the NIT bid would be one of my favorite things he’s done since he has been here.
    We are the golden standard of college basketball; We don’t go play in the baddies tournament. We take our defeat like a man and call it a season.

  23. MemphisCat
    7:51 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    I know the NIT is for teams that didn’t make it to the big dance, do you think UT will make the NIT, what makes you think we can win the NIT? We just lost to UT by 30pts and it could have been worse, I think if we win 2 games in the NIT we can consider it a good thing. But, I will take a play in game in the NCAA, that tells me that we go at least 4-2 in rest of SEC and make it to championship game in SEC tourney.

  24. Fan
    7:52 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    I’d rather kiss my sister than go to the NIT or NCAA this year. Stay home and reject any bid. After yesterday, these guys only deserve the NAIA invite.

  25. Lil c
    7:53 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    NIT is for losers!!! I’m a UK fan, and I’m embarrassed even talking about not making the big dance!

  26. hoo ha
    7:59 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    22 – I’m with you. I’ve written off this year. Not a bandwagon fan, just sick of the frustration of watching this team. But I am salivating about next year, whether some of this year’s guys come back or not. Look out in 13-14!

  27. Guythatunderstandshypotheticals
    8:11 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    I’d definitely rather win the NIT. We get to see more games. Sure it would suck missing the tourney, but losing in a play-in game would be worse than watching them play and actually win games.

  28. Cal'sMassiveMilkMakers
    8:14 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    I hope you rubes do sneak into the dance. Would love for the cards to get a chance to play you without your paid for, NBA ringer. Would be an [email protected] kicking.

  29. Cal'sMassiveMilkMaker
    8:22 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    In case you didn’t get my drift; I’m an urbane Sophisticate. And I can cast aspersions at your coach, because ours is beyond reproach. Yes, that’s Ric Pitino I’m talking about. HA!

  30. Cal'sMassiveMilkMaker
    8:23 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    I represent all that is good about our fan base. I ooze class, in case you didn’t know…

  31. Matt
    8:31 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    I would rather sit at home then go to a nit tournament it NCAA tournament or bust…why would u rather win something that means nothing to uk fans plus not going to a tournament at the end of the year provides motivation to the selfish players we have..u get what u put into something and only through hard work are u ever going to get anything in life basketball success included

  32. ohiocatfan
    8:31 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    Any UK fan who says the NIT is not really a fan.

  33. gottodoit
    8:32 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    NCAA – it’s hard to be national champions when you play in the NIT.

    Louisville, you’d better be looking over your shoulder.

  34. Flubby Smith
    8:32 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    NIT champion = 69th best team…

  35. CB
    8:32 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    It’s hard for me to imagine we could win the NIT either, so I’d take losing the play in. There’s been a chemistry problem with this team from day one, and I think Cal had it right over a month ago when he said “maybe I picked wrong”. It happens sometimes.

  36. blueaville
    8:33 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    #2 that’s what all teams that shouldn’t be in the NIT say. “it’s great experience for the bench” WHAT BENCH??? We are #BBN and we should NEVER I repeat NEVER be so low that we have to go to the NIT. Especially in a year like this one when college bball is so down.

    Yes we lost Noel but we are UK. We should be bigger than one player. If we go to the NIT it will NOT be forgotten.

  37. Prophet
    8:35 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    Don’t worry yourself. Zero chance of doing either. First or second round loss in NIT is my guess.

  38. 4774uk
    8:36 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    31 how big of a loser are you. go back down into your mothers basement

  39. Cal for POTUS
    8:36 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    We aren’t going to compete for the championship this year so what ever! Cal has delivered to the BBN so we can give him a mulligan this year. Looks like next year will be more of what we are used to. Elite 8 ,FF, NC, down year. Most fans I’ll take that for a 4 year cycle!

  40. Matt
    8:37 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    Sit at home nit is embarrassment I’d rather just practice there butts off in practice as they watched teams that have less talent than them but play together and aren’t selfish succeed

  41. Matt
    8:38 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    Next year should be a great year

  42. Insider
    8:40 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    Harrow and Goodwin hate Cal and he is not fond of them. Neither will be back next year.

  43. deepblue
    8:48 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    Honestly….I’m just ready for this season to be over and fastforward to next. Both of the scenarios you list are indistinguishable to me from ending the season right now. I suppose if I had to pick it would be play in game because I would prefer to decline an NIT invite.

  44. Coach Pete Bell
    9:03 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    UK vs UNC would be an interesting NIT final…

  45. Lady cat fan
    9:11 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    Hands down…make the ncaa tournament!

  46. jim jim
    9:17 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    The NIT would be fine but no way we win that either. The sun will shine again on our boys !

  47. Katdaddy
    9:20 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    Won’t make it! These guys can’ t win a game in the NIT! These guys was highly overranked and not near as good as cal thought. When they can’t score it effects their defense. AWFUL JUST AWFUL.

  48. Katdaddy
    9:22 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    NC would drill us because we can’t guard anybody.

  49. Wildcatsteeler
    9:26 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    He’s making a false comparison because we wouldn’t win the NIT. The real comparison is lose a play-in game or lose in the NIT.

  50. Wild Blue
    10:10 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    No NIT. Decline an invitation if we don’t make the big dance. How soon we forget the BCG era.

  51. Jimi
    10:29 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    Its nice to dream, but i cant enjoy it because of this nightmare season.

  52. Matt
    10:33 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    I have two questions if everyone stays from the team this year will they have a scholarship available for wiggins and can uk deny a invite to the nit tournament ?

  53. Z'Man
    11:19 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    Neither. Accept the year for what it is and start looking at building on next year. GOAL: Win it all or go home at the SEC Tournament. Go CATS!

  54. UK lawyer
    11:49 pm February 17, 2013 Permalink

    Man Jones you love to beat a dead horse. This team is worthless who gives a rats ass if they make the tourney or not? They don’t care, why should we?

  55. Frankie
    1:54 am February 18, 2013 Permalink

    The NIT shouldn’t even be considered, that’s just embarrassing. If we don’t make the tourney, don’t even bother, just get started on next year.

  56. comeonnow
    2:03 am February 18, 2013 Permalink

    NCAA… at least I would still get to see my ‘Cats play. If UK goes to NIT, I will not watch. What’s the point? It’s a tourney for LOSERS

  57. Bobby Knight's Shrink
    3:39 am February 18, 2013 Permalink

    What about the CBIT ? Could win that, maybe !

  58. Bledsoe's Biceps
    7:13 am February 18, 2013 Permalink

    I’ll always take an NCAA bid over a chance to win the NIT. In my book, a first game loss in the NCAA trumps a NIT crown. 1) Haters will never forget an NIT bid/crown (ie. the team didn’t make the real tourney), but over time they will forget how you lost an NCAA tourney game. 2) Cal reloads and does not need to rely on the added “experience” the NIT affords most teams.