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Just how close is Kentucky to the NIT?

© C. Morgan Engel | USATSI

© C. Morgan Engel | USATSI

After Kentucky’s third consecutive loss last night, the Big Blue Nation’s restlessness reached record highs.

The Wildcats led the Aggies at halftime 30-26, but came out after intermission looking groggy, allowing a 17-2 run by Texas A&M. From there, Kentucky couldn’t do much of anything to get back on top, and their record fell to 17-8 on the season. They’re now sitting at .500 in conference play at 6-6, and are currently the No. 6 team in the SEC, tied with the likes of Mississippi State, Arkansas, and A&M.

With an incredibly tough schedule to end the season, and quality of play plunging by the game, dreams of a deep run in the NCAA Tournament are taking a similar plunge.

In fact, many are wondering if this team is destined to follow a similar path of the 2012-13 Kentucky team and miss the tournament entirely.

But just how close to the NIT are the 2017-18 Wildcats?

Just looking at last season’s NIT participants, and those from previous years, Kentucky would have to make a complete collapse going into postseason play.

Syracuse was selected as the No. 1 seed of the 2017 NIT after finishing the regular season with a record of 18-14.

Illinois, the No. 2 seed in last year’s NIT, also finished the regular season with an 18-14 record.

Conversely, the 2016 NIT field was stacked, with no No. 1 seed having more than eight losses on the year. In fact, South Carolina was the No. 1 seed in one region with a 24-8 regular season record.

In 2015, Old Dominion was a No. 1 seed with a final record of 24-7, as was Colorado State with a record of 27-6. Texas A&M made the NIT as a No. 2 seed with a record of 20-11.

When Kentucky went to the NIT back in 2012-13, everything that could have gone wrong, did. Nerlens Noel tore his ACL and missed the remainder of the year, the Cats struggled from the outside, and a lack of go-to scorer made it incredibly hard to win down the stretch. Things were starting to click when Noel went down, and the team immediately reverted back to their old bad habits.

Finishing 21-11 that season, even THAT team was the first team out of the tournament, and many analysts felt the Cats were snubbed.

Fortunately for the Cats this year, unlike 2015 and 2016, the field is wide open, as no teams in college basketball have separated themselves as leaders of the pack.

In fact, even with the loss last night, ESPN’s advanced numbers show that the Cats still have a 97% chance to make the NCAA tournament. Kentucky has the 11th-toughest strength of schedule in the nation, and are No. 18 in RPI.

With six games remaining down the stretch, plus the SEC Championship to look forward to, it would take a monumental breakdown for the Cats to land in the NIT.


Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

70 Comments for Just how close is Kentucky to the NIT?

  1. ilovekaturday
    2:14 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink


    • Rembrandt
      3:42 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      The columnist just told you why it’s not going to happen.

    • ilovekaturday
      4:39 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      I forgot what he says has to be right what a moron have you not watched these games. These so called columnist know no more than a 7 year old half the time they just get idiots like you to listen to them

    • KYJelly
      2:33 am February 12, 2018 Permalink

      And idiots like you listened too …. ya know, because you read the article a “7 year old” wrote … smh

    • TBW3011
      9:54 am February 12, 2018 Permalink

      Oh. Well if the columnist said it then it’s true. Change your name to Ostrich.

    • syrin23
      5:00 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      Exactly. Strength of schedule means nothing if you lose them all, especially down the stretch.

  2. BigBlueOnYou
    2:20 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

    Deserve it to be honest

  3. bigbluenation90
    2:22 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

    About as close as Drake was too getting his ass whooped by Meek Mill

  4. BlueDeuce
    2:26 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

    It’ll take 3-3 to finish the SEC and at least a semi-final appearance in the SEC Tournament to make the NCAA Tournament.

    If UK goes 2 – 4 and out in round 1 or 2 of the SEC, it’s NIT bound for this team. At this point, they are a bubble team and need to play their best ball going down the stretch.

    I am unsure of where they end up but I was at that game last night and I’ve never seen a team with this much inter-bickering, in-fighting, and back-talking as I saw at College Station last night. This team doesn’t want to share the ball at all and we have no one on the outside to stop the ball. Can’t rebound and lack consistent shooting. They all seem willing to play only for themselves. I am not sure what to make of them…or where they end up but just how close are they to the NIT…50/50 right now I would say.

    • BigBlueOnYou
      2:28 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      I agree man. The SEC is miserable this year and we STILL can’t win games. Thank god we ain’t in the ACC

    • BonnieTayshaunBilly
      3:22 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      The SEC is tough this year, but we’re still in a football conference that never gets the credit it deserves for basketball. With Mizzou possibly getting back Michael Porter and A&M righting their ship, it’s looking tough for us. If Alabama beats us at home and we lose early in SEC tournament, I don’t see how we make the field of 68. A play-in game?

    • ilovekaturday
      3:27 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink


    • T-wah
      3:34 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      You are wrong, katurday. The SEC is stronger this year (from top to bottom) than it has been in years. While we may not have a national championship contender, we’re going to have 7-8 NCAA tournament teams, and don’t be surprised to see some of them make the second weekend (or possibly beyond). I think most would agree that the SEC is among the 3 toughest conferences in the country. Don’t be disagreeable just because you can.

    • tree_gardener
      3:28 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      The sec is easily the second or first best conference.

    • Ched17
      3:32 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      Okay first of all the SEC will get 8 teams in the tournament including UK. We are projected at the lowest an 8 seed by every brakcetologist there is. And we just out rebounded A&M in a game 43-40 so to say we can’t rebound is just dumb.

      Now that being said we have bigger issues like making jump shots and passing. We only have two players CAPABLE of passing the ball.

      This team is athletic not talented. Let’s press, for 40 minutes, make the game chaotic. Use our 9 players and our athleticism. Best chance this team has. Go Cats! We will be a 6 seed in the tourney

    • kjd
      8:41 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      This team can’t press worth a hoot either.

    • antiquefurnitureandmidgets
      4:47 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      “The SEC IS NOT TOUGH“

      The frick?! Considered by many to be the best conference this season.

    • Bull Filmer
      5:39 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      I thought the comment in re the SEC being ‘miserable’ this year was either sarcasm – or blind stupidity – or both. The ACC is bad ass. The SEC is right there this year.

  5. Le Docteur
    2:35 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

    A “monumental breakdown” like, what? Like the 2nd half of the Texas A&M game yesterday? Something like that?

  6. Blublood41
    2:57 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

    Yeah, we might make it. But we will be one and done.

    • callitlikeiseeit
      4:57 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      Need to thank Vandy for us not almost being a lock to the NIT. If they don’t choke away the game at Rupp, looking at you Riley, and we lose like we should have we would be a lock to the NIT. Our last win….errrrr gift from Vandy, is what is keeping us a tourney team right now. If we lose that game we are 5-7 in SEC, 16-9 overall with a bottom quadrant loss at home and no great wins on the resume. Thank you Vandy, may be our famous 1 and done motto once there but at least we are currently in the tourney.

  7. binarysolo
    3:05 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

    I was under the impression that SOS and RPI isn’t as important this year as the selection committee is emphasizing wins on away and neutral courts. Will the win at West Virgnia carry us into the tournament? I get that the field is wide open this year but 97% still seems a bit high for our chances to get in.

  8. TB112162
    3:09 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

    BigBlueonyou are you clueless the Sec is considered the 2nd best conference

    • BigBlueOnYou
      3:13 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      ACC big 12 big 10? Hell the big east has more quality teams. Don’t give me that biased ranking bs just to make yourself feel better about how bad this team is.

    • ilovekaturday
      3:16 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      This is why our fan base gets made fun of who is supposed to be good Tennessee? They just got busted by 25 auburn they don’t start someone above 6’8 most overrated team in the country. Who else Flordia LOL us? LMFAO

    • Rise
      5:25 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      Didn’t TN beat Purdue?

    • runningunnin.454
      5:42 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      Western Kentucky also whipped Purdue. North Carolina lost to Wofford; and, Furman whipped Wofford by 20 points.

  9. TB112162
    3:13 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

    It might help to win a game soon 3-3 would probably do it but you have to win one before you can when 3

  10. DelrayCat
    3:13 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

    Double digit losses and anything less than .500 in SEC play will put us in the NIT, unless they win the SEC tourney.
    Remember, even in the 2012-13 NIT season we were 12-6 in SEC play.

  11. BBNDan7
    3:16 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

    The comment section on this site makes me want to never get on here again lately

    • BigBlueOnYou
      3:18 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      Then please, Daniel, do us all a favor and GTFO!

    • Blublood41
      3:28 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      And I guess were supposed to be happy with the slop that is being played instead of basketball?

    • BigBlueOnYou
      3:31 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      Yep! According to Big Dan here we should bow down to a cal statue and sing his praise every NIT year!

    • Bobbum Man
      3:30 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      Whenever we’re off a loss all the trolls hang around for a few days… I guess when UL has become well…. what it’s become they gotta have somethin to do

    • ilovekaturday
      4:06 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      I’m not to sure the turd birds wouldn’t beat us if we played them again

    • 2blues
      4:15 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      Kentucky Wildcats are my team no matter what happens. I still believe Cals going to land this plane, before we’re out of runway??

  12. Ched17
    3:41 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

    The SEC has a lot of quality teams. Auburn, Tennessee, Florida are all solid. Alabama has good wins, Mississippi State ‘s playing well. A&M is finally playibyng like the team they were suppose to be. Missouri and UK are projected as in the tourney.

    The Big 10 is awful. They have MSU, OSU, and Purdue. The rest wouldn’t be 5-7 in the SEC.

    The Big 12 is solid but beats each other up like the SEC

    The ACC is okay. They have Virginia, Clemson
    Unc is just as bad as UK right now and Duke couldn’t guard Brad.

    The Big East is too heavy. Xavier, Nova, Butler, and Creighton are all good. The rest are maybe mediocre at best

    • ilovekaturday
      4:07 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      The SEC isn’t even in the same class as those conferences Missouri is awful Mississippi State is TERRIBLE Alabama has one player Flordia is thrash auburn overrated Tennessee awful

    • Ched17
      10:21 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      Alabama has Sexton and Petty and good support group. Solid team. Tennessee and Auburn are tough matchups for anyone. Florida can beat and also lose to anyone. Missouri ‘s playing a lot better. And Miss St. has looked good recently. Idk what you have been watching but the Big 10 is awful. The ACC has dropped down. The Big East is solid. The Big 12 has a bunch of okay teams, the SEC did win the Big 12/SEC Challenge, right? Without Auburn even having a game in it. The SEC is far from trash if you know anything about basketball

  13. KYjellyRoll
    3:42 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

    They’re gonna pull it together. I’d say they’re embarrassed after last night. We’ve got until Wednesday to prepare for Auburn. Gonna be a great finish. Keep the faith. Still a U.K. Fan and I’ll still watch every game no matter how hard it is to stomach. These guys are winners. Just gotta find it in them to actually compete for 40 minutes. Go cats

  14. runningunnin.454
    4:12 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

    I see some infrequent visitors; guess it took three consecutive losses to inspire them to crawl out from under their rocks.
    If I could borrow from Lewis Terman; let’s see, bear with me…based upon their minimal command of the English language and rudimentary grasp of punctuation, I would say an intellectual age of 11y divided by say 26,
    Congrats BBN90, ilovekat, and BBOnYou….your combined IQ is a pretty decent number…126.
    That’s OK; Mensa, like UK, is not for everybody.

    • BigBlueOnYou
      4:28 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      Bet you didn’t even graduate high school ‘runningunnin’ LMAO
      If you’d like to have an intellectual conversation we can? However, I don’t think your inbred brain could handle that kind of contest.

    • ilovekaturday
      4:29 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      Judging by your name runningunnin.454. Referring to the caliber 454 I’m assuming you’re living in a trailer park somewhere near hazard. Speaking of punctuation I don’t believe it is correct to use multiple periods in a sentence but hey who’s keeping score. Please return to your meth lab.

    • ilovekaturday
      4:31 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      Talking about intellectual this guy. Smh guy probably has to take his shoes off to count his teeth judging by that username.

    • antiquefurnitureandmidgets
      4:52 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      Keyboard warrior. If you spoke like this in real life you’d have to take off your shoes to count your teeth because that’s where you’d keep them. Y’all are some cute little fishermen aren’t you.

    • ilovekaturday
      5:08 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      Antique furniture and midgets you are probably a bad ass LMFAO nice name dude a keyboard warrior please get out of here with this bs shut up before I cut you down to size like a midget

    • runningunnin.454
      5:04 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      Yep; HS, UK, Alabama-Birmingham, and Harvard.
      By the way, the multiple periods are called an ellipsis…from the Ancient Greek meaning omission.
      You fellas keep talking, and I’m going to have to lower that 126.

    • ilovekaturday
      5:06 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      You misspelled hazard and put Harvard

    • runningunnin.454
      5:32 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      Hey, that’s good; commuter juco wit is hysterical.

    • ilovekaturday
      5:34 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      Your trailer park username is hysterical.

    • RealCatsFan
      10:41 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      RG, did you notice the similarities in the grammatical errors combined with the ultra negative patterns of whining and bellyaching exhibited by all these trolls? I have a theory that they are all the same mouth breather posting with different accounts. They were nowhere to be seen when the Cats were winning, either this year or years past. Probably not even a UK fan.

    • ukcamel
      5:10 pm February 12, 2018 Permalink

      Agree with RealCatsFan. Same idiotic writing style (e.g. both used “LMAO”) for a lot of these trolls. They also complain so much about one and done, as if freshmen weren’t the reason we got to all those final fours and won in 2012. An actual fan would definitely complain about this team, but these are just sour Louisville fans that are upset about all the stars UK has had the last few years, all of whom beat down the cards.

  15. ukwildcat1991
    4:29 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

    I love basketball…

    • RealCatsFan
      10:54 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      UKfan, you make some valid points. Yep, this team has some serious issues, and you touched kn a few of them. I’m not sure if Cal will be able to get it figured out. For one thing, I think he needs to stop coddling them. I agree with others that the “we are young” thing is played out. At this point in the season, they aren’t freshmen anymore. He needs to hold them accountable. Play selfishly or back talk, and your ass is on the bench. If this team would just commit themselves to bust-your-butt hustle and take pride in their defense, a lot of the problems will take care of themselves.

    • RealCatsFan
      10:56 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      Well crap, that reply was meant for the comment below this one.

  16. UKfan4TwoDecades
    4:58 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

    Man, you know that something is horribly wrong when this late in the year there are discussions about IF UK will make the NCAA Tournament and virtually no one is giving UK any chance of actually winning the NCAA Tournament.

    Unless there are magical changes with each of these players, efforts – physically – mentally – emotionally – result wise – etc., drastically improves then look for more of the same. Cal has an ego. A big ego. Much of it earned. But, there is an old adage of “don’t judge a man by his successes but how he rectified his failures”. These players are trying to play for themselves to up their NBA draft stock and it’s like every man for himself. The back talking, refusal to talk (that’s been a problem with Cal’s teams), and the feeling (justified or not) about being on a sinking ship is a recipe for continued issues.

    It seems like too often Cal is taking off to go see so and so play high school basketball players he is trying to recruit. What toll, if any, does that take?

    To those blaming RUPP’s crowds, with emphasis on the age of the crowd in the better seats, I say “welcome to capitalism”. When UK won the NCAA Tournament, seems like an eternity, no one was talking about them. Most of these fans are like me. They were born in Kentucky. They were raised in Kentucky. They love basketball and have since their youth. They went to as many UK games as they could and when, and good for them, they had the monetary means they bought the seats. Just because they aren’t jumping up and screaming or doing the wave doesn’t mean they aren’t fans. Doesn’t mean they don’t care. Doesn’t mean they don’t support the team. They hang on every play and every win and every loss like we all do. YES Rupp and UK should do something about student sections and highlight them. UK has had the most dominate Cheerleaders in the Nation year after year. They are incredible and good for them.

    It’s easy to point out that UK lost a specific player to another team, and I have, but it’s not just that they went to another team it is how dominating they are. How good they are. YES they are freshman but they are balling out and ours…aren’t.

    Everyone @ KSR does a great job. The comments, most of the time, I find to be passionate. Rooted in facts. Many times hilarious. I hope this never stops because we are in a brotherhood of sorts that we love UK and we are proud of their accomplishments and want the best for the teams. When UK loses it hurts. I’m 55 years old and long removed from my high school, and college, playing days and I surely don’t know everything about basketball and the issues with teens that succeeded in high school and were always praised and then to come to UK and not have the success as a team. What I do know is that we, as fans and UK has a team, are in real bona fide, trouble.

    Take care

    • BigBlueOnYou
      5:03 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      Well said! I believe a lot of us fans are just tired of cal just rolling the ball out there and saying “have at it!” Teams are adjusting to it, especially our conference opponents. Things are starting to get bad around here.

    • ilovekaturday
      5:09 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      I’m glad some people on here actually make sense unlike them two inbred morons above us

    • henderblue
      5:34 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      You are an asshole

  17. chris43
    5:42 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

    Hate to say it but the way we’re playing it won’t matter much if we make the NCAA tourney as we’d be extremely lucky to make it past the first weekend.

  18. UKPROF
    5:43 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

    I said this was an N.I.T. team 4 weeks ago, BEFORE and AFTER they beat West Virginia. It’s an N.I.T. team and we will be better off in the N.I.T. (’cause we might win a couple of games??) than in the NCAA where we will be 1 and done.

  19. blueballs80
    5:52 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

    The good news: Most of them are not NBA ready and will come back.
    The bad news: Most of them are coming back

    Unless they drastically improve their game and improve defensively, I don’t see how they will be successful next season. Good thing is we have 3 good scorers coming in next season and with Jemarl also being available that makes 4 good scorers. Hamii and Knox are gone!

    The PG position should be interesting, If Immanuel Quickley gets the job done, Green will be coming off the bench with Shai and Quickley starting, Herro or Johnson both at shooting guard and PJ Washington and Richards (hopefully we can find another big) because Richards is just not a banger in the post and cant grab a rebound to save his life. SKJ is the unknown still.

  20. BlueDew
    5:59 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

    Alabama has dominated the SEC in football, for the most part, over the past 8-9 years. That raised the bar for everyone else. Look at the coaches that have been hired last year and since the season ended in SEC football this year. Winning football games has just gotten a lot harder. UK raised the bar in basketball over the past 8 years. What happened as a result is schools hiring quality coaches that can strategize, recruit, and are not afraid to take on U.K. Saban has had to adjust. Since the NC game he has hired new younger coaches, at least 4, to add new ideas to his program and to recruit. Why? Because they finished 6th this year and UGA finished number one in recruiting. He saw this coming after the early singing period and made the necessary changes. Had to, or they would be in trouble. So, I’m guessing it’s time for Cal to do the same thing, or we will be stuck where we are. There comes a time, in great programs, that adjustments have to be made. I see recruiting and evaluating talent such as players that can play as a team, and has a tough mental attitude as priorities.

  21. BlueDew
    7:12 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

    If Cal wants to recruit one-and-done players that’s fine. However, Cal and his staff have to evaluate those players to ensure they have mental attributes and the physicality to compete with aggressive more mature teams. Taking the best 5-6 one-and -done prospects every year may not be the most productive during basketball season. As we have seen with this team they are lacking in maturity, physicality, and basketball savvy, and can’t shoot. To make things worse there is no one on the bench to fall back to. With Cal recruiting a new batch of players to come here and step into starting rolls, how many players will come back. Three might go NBA. How about the rest? If they don’t have the mental toughness to fight off the new kids on the block any better than they fight off adversity now. They won’t stay here and play second fiddle.

    • RealCatsFan
      11:03 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

      I think a lot of the shooting issues are poor shot selection, which is caused by stagnant or non existent offensive sets. Get some motion going on offense, better passing, making that extra pass for the open shot, and those shots will start to fall. They were doing some of this in the first half, but when they got lazy on defense and let TAMU go on a run, they regressed.

  22. LegggoooCats
    7:39 pm February 11, 2018 Permalink

    The thing is, as bad as we are playing… we have no “gimme” games. I don’t think we will, but we could lose all six of our remaining regular season games.

  23. blueblood4life
    1:56 am February 12, 2018 Permalink

    I wish some guys would stop putting this team or coach ! Down. They was days like Eddie Sutton years we was on probation! And when billy g showed up and losing too the Gardner Webb’s . Sure I wanna contend for titles every year ! But we go threw good times and bad times but we are college basketball and coach cal is the best guy for the job and number 9 may not happen this year but I sure don’t wanna here these weathered fans celebrate when coach cal brings it home !

  24. TBW3011
    9:53 am February 12, 2018 Permalink

    The season doesn’t end today. Just look at the upcoming schedule and we’re closer than some want to think.