I am skeptical by nature, and thus I rarely subscribe to conspiracy theories. 9-11 was orchestrated by Muslim terrorists, Kennedy was killed by 1 man, we really did land on the moon, so on and so on. I have found for a fanbase with 7 national titles and more wins than any other school, there are MANY conspiracy theories that fans have about the program. For a school that the officials, NCAA, and every other person try to cheat, we sure do win a lot of games. But anyway, one of the theories that fans tend to bring up in March every year is that the NCAA will screw us with the toughest draw possible. Again, it’s amazing we are given the toughest draw every year but have 7 national titles. Doesn’t that seem to suggest otherwise?
But I will bite this time. I went back to the last 3 times that Kentucky was seeded 3 or better. Unfortunately, I can not find RPI numbers for anytime before then. But, I listed the top 8 or 9 seeds in Kentucky’s region in those years, along with their RPI number coming into the tournament. But, what you will especially want to look at is what ranking those teams had COMPARED TO OTHER TEAMS SEEDED THE SAME. If Kentucky was getting screwed, then the teams in their region would be the best at that seed. Right?
I only picked years when Kentucky was seeded 3 or better because frankly, if you are not good enough to earn a Top 3 seed, then you are not good enough to complain about your draw. You have to EARN a good draw. And only those teams with top 3 seeds have EARNED it.
(Teams in bold won their conference tournament, indicating they were HOT coming into the tournament)
Record: 32-2, RPI: 2
SEC Champs (Regular Season and Tournament)
Seed: 1 (ACCURATE)
2 seed: West Virginia (RPI: 4, Best RPI)
3 seed: New Mexico (RPI: 10, 3rd Best RPI)
4 seed: Wisconsin (RPI: 21 , 2nd Best RPI)
5 seed: Temple (RPI: 8, Best RPI)
6 seed: Marquette (RPI: 50, 4th Best RPI)
7 seed: Clemson (RPI: 34, 4th Best RPI)
8 seed: Texas (RPI: 29, 2nd Best RPI)
16 seed: East Tennessee State (RPI: 121, 2nd Best RPI)
ANALYSIS: Kentucky came into the tournament as the likely #2 overall seed. Nonetheless, they DID receive a very tough draw within the Top 5 seeds in their bracket. West Virginia was likely the top 2-seed, Temple was the best 5-seed by RPI, and UK only got 2 teams that were the worst on their respective seed lines, Marquette and Clemson. Hell, Temple came into the tournament with a Top 10 RPI and won their conference tournament, but were given a 5-seed. But, although the draw LOOKED tough, it played out perfect for Kentucky, with Cornell pulling upsets. It finally bit them in the Elite 8.
FINAL DECISION: TOUGH DRAW
Record: 28-6, RPI: 11
SEC Regular Season Champs (Tournament Runners-up)
Seed: 2 (FAVORABLE/ACCURATE)
1 seed: Duke (RPI: 4, 4th Best RPI)
3 seed: Oklahoma (RPI: 24, 4th Best RPI)
4 seed: Syracuse (RPI: 23, 3rd Best RPI)
5 seed: Michigan State (RPI: 12, Best RPI)
6 seed: Utah (RPI: 17, Best RPI)
7 seed: Cincinnati (RPI: 25, 2nd Best RPI)
15 seed: Eastern Kentucky (RPI: 63, Best RPI)
ANALYSIS: This draw depends on how you look at it. On the one hand, most of the power in that region was on the other end of the bracket, with Duke, Syracuse, and Michigan State unable to face UK until the Elite 8. That left Kentucky with mid-majors on it’s side, like Utah and Cincinnati. And while those teams were fairly strong, they still feasted on weak competition most of the season. But, according to the RPI, Utah and Cincinnati were actually strong compared to other teams of the same seed. Overall, this was a very fair draw for the Cats, in my opinion. Not easy, but manageable.
FINAL DECISION: FAIR DRAW
Record: 26-4, RPI: 4
SEC Tournament Champs
Seed: Overall 1-seed (ACCURATE)
2 seed: Gonzaga (RPI: 17, 4th Best RPI)
3 seed: Georgia Tech (RPI: 7, 2nd Best RPI)
4 seed: Kansas (RPI: 10, Best RPI)
5 seed: Providence (RPI: 25, 4th Best RPI)
6 seed: Boston College (RPI: 23, 3rd best RPI)
7 seed: Michigan State (RPI: 38, 4th best RPI)
8 seed: Washington (RPI: 69, 4th best RPI)
9 seed: UAB (RPI: 31, Best RPI)
16 seed: Florida A&M (RPI: 253, 4th best RPI)
ANALYSIS: This draw was absolute CAKE. Out of the top 9 seeds, only 2 of the teams were the best at their particular seed in the RPI. 5 out of the 8 were the worst or 2nd worst at their seed. Add to that, Kentucky’s 2 seed in this bracket was a mid-major Gonzaga, and the committee basically tried to push UK to the Final Four. The Zags were also the only team that won its conference tournament. Unfortunately, 1 of the 2 teams that were best at their seed was UAB, and that was who tripped UK up, but an overall #1 seed has nobody but themselves to blame for losing to a 9-seed. The committee was not to blame.
FINAL DECISION: EASY DRAW
The way I see it, that’s 3 tournaments and 3 different draws. UK’s draw last year was absolutely more difficult than deserved. But the other 2 years it was either a fair draw or an easy draw. If the NCAA is giving Kentucky a tough draw every year, or at least the years they are good, the numbers don’t back that up. I find this to simply be an EXCUSE by fans to reason out the 13 year Final Four drought. Instead of blaming the actual players for not stepping up, or giving the other team credit, fans place their blame in other directions, and that is gutless. Man up, admit sometimes teams are better, and stop coming up with conspiracies.