Is it too early to discuss seeding? Is it ever too early to discuss seeding? Is it always too early to discuss seeding? I don’t know, but I’m about to discuss seeding. Although Kentucky is just now getting things rolling in conference play and plenty of unknowns and variables exist– those hoping for as good a seed as possible for the Cats have to start watching for certain things to start happening from here on out. Joe Lunardi (ESPN’s resident bracketlogist… had you heard?) currently projects Kentucky as a #4 seed in his most recent bracketology, which was released on January 9th. As a current 4 seed, a number of things could happen to bump Kentucky up a few lines into a highly coveted and highly favorable seed (a 1-seed is certainly a long shot but still in the realm of possibilities, for now anyway), or a number of things could happen to drop Kentucky into a less than favorable seed. Let’s take a look at some of the things that could happen, and what we should hope for as we watch the next month and a half transpire, and what we should root against happening.
What Kentucky can control:
Obviously some things are out of Kentucky’s hands as far as what happens with other teams and results, but Kentucky has control over its own destiny when it comes to the Cats’ schedule.
Best Case Scenario: 1-2 SEC losses
The fact that Kentucky already has 3 losses on the season isn’t a HUGE downfall for them, especially considering that 2 of the 3 teams are Top-15 ranked teams (Michigan State and Baylor). And North Carolina, although very inconsistent– has a handful of surprising wins against some of the best teams on its schedule. If Kentucky could keep the total loss total on the season to the 3-5 range, that would give Kentucky its best shot at a really good seed (I consider really good to be a 1 or a 2 seed). Winning tonight on the road at Arkansas, I think, greatly increases Kentucky’s chances of not dropping more than 1-2 games in SEC play with a favorable schedule and a relatively “down” SEC.
Average Scenario: 3-4 losses
If Kentucky picked up 3-4 SEC losses, assuming at least 1/2 of them were to teams like Florida or Missouri as opposed to the bottom/middle of the pack SEC teams, the Cats could still be in decent shape seed-wise. I think 3 things are important here for Kentucky:
1) Don’t lose all of the games against the top teams (aka Florida, Missouri). Kentucky needs to pick up at least 1-2 quality wins among that group of games.
2) Avoid a streak of losses. Sometimes the worse thing that can happen as far as the perception of what a team really is or isn’t can be a bad losing streak of even as few as 2 games. If you lose one, you don’t want to keep the bad momentum rolling with another loss quickly.
3) Avoid a loss to a bad team. (And IF Kentucky is going to take a “bad loss,” it needs to be on the road). There are some teams in the SEC that quite frankly, it would just look really bad to take a loss against.
Worst Case Scenario: Lose more than 5 SEC games
If Kentucky drops more than 5 SEC games, considering the overall weakness of the conference, along with the 3 losses already– the resume’ wouldn’t look great for a favorable seed.
What Kentucky can’t control:
Best Case Scenario: Some of the teams in the top 10 need to start losing some games
A few teams seem like locks for a #1 seed, at least at this point (example: Arizona and Syracuse). It’s not necessarily so important that those teams start to drop some games, but the next tier of teams vying for the rest of the 1 seeds and 2 seeds could stand to lose some games to help Kentucky’s cause. If Kentucky can keep winning, and some of those teams start to take losses– it might only be a matter of time before Kentucky leap frogs some of those teams (example: Villanova, Florida, Iowa State, Ohio State). The more those teams lose, the better (assuming Kentucky racks up impressive conference wins).
Average Scenario: A few of those teams in the 4-12 range in the rankings begin to catch fire.
The problem with the perceived (and in all honesty, likely the reality) weakness of the SEC is that if Kentucky keeps winning AND the teams in front of them from tougher conferences keep winning… the pecking order won’t change much. The teams ahead of Kentucky have to do worse than Kentucky when it comes to conference play.
Worst Case Scenario: The teams in front of Kentucky all stay in front of Kentucky AND other teams catch fire who are currently BEHIND Kentucky
A few teams behind Kentucky right now are potentially dangerous (example: Kansas, Duke, Memphis, Louisville). Kansas has been playing much better lately, while Duke has been moving in the opposite direction. If Kentucky doesn’t excel in conference play, and teams like Duke and Kansas get hot, along with the scenario mentioned above– it’s a bad recipe for Kentucky.
What Kentucky can watch for with teams they have played/will play:
Best Case Scenario: The tough teams from Kentucky’s schedule continue to remain respected/perform well.
Even though I hate Louisville as much as the next person, Louisville is Kentucky’s best win to date. Louisville needs to remain a top-25 ranked team in order for that win to keep looking as good. Kentucky’s losses will look better too if Baylor continues to do well, along with Michigan State. North Carolina could help Kentucky out by doing more of the good UNC, and less of the “what the hell?” UNC. Kentucky also needs for the SEC teams who are currently respected to keep doing well: Florida, Missouri, Arkansas. Kentucky still could use a few marquee wins, and when those opportunities come– those teams still need to be ranked or at least considered to be tourney teams. In a perfect world, a few other SEC teams might climb into contention as well so that those wins look more respectable. That appears to be a bit of a long shot though.
Average Scenario: The tough teams from Kentucky’s schedule do average/the SEC schedule only produces a few chances for quality wins
If some of Kentucky’s good wins and perceived good losses (Michigan State, Baylor, UNC on the road) lose value because a team like Louisville underperforms or a team like Baylor goes on a big skid, or a team like UNC falls into complete shambles– it wouldn’t be great for the Cats. If some of the quality SEC teams now start to fall off (example: Missouri or Arkansas), that wouldn’t be great either.
Worst Case Scenario: If everyone Kentucky played starts to collapse and the SEC is a free for all.
If the SEC creates a bunch of middle of the road teams, with no great teams for Kentucky to score wins against– that would be the worst case scenario. If Louisville falls out of the top 25, or UNC goes .500 in the ACC, or Baylor drops out of the top-25… all of those things would be really bad for Kentucky.