Hopefully you saw my post on Friday about the fact that UK’s non-conference schedule has fallen apart a bit in terms of strength over the last month. Kansas is obviously strong and Louisville and Duke are likely locks into the tournaments, although the Blue Devils are free-falling. Beyond that only ALBANY is in the Top 3 of their conference right now. For most of the lower-level conferences really anything can happen in their conference tournament. But UCLA, Arizona State, and Ohio State don’t appear to be headed to the tournament. So, it could be a low number of UK’s non-conference opponents into the tournament this year.
But what is the norm? Below are the amount of non-conference opponents UK faced that ended up making the NCAA Tournament that year. The opponents are ordered by how far they went in the tournament, with those in bold making the Sweet 16 or further and those in red making the Final Four.
2000: 10 (Michigan St, Miami (FL), Utah, Maryland, Arizona, Dayton, Penn, Indiana, Louisville, Missouri)
2015: 7 (Louisville, North Carolina, UCLA, Kansas, Providence, Texas, Buffalo)
2007: 7 (UCLA, Memphis, North Carolina, Indiana, Louisville, Miami (OH), Eastern Kentucky)
2001: 7 (Michigan St, UCLA, Penn St, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Indiana)
2012: 6 (Kansas, Louisville, North Carolina, Indiana, Loyola (MD), Lamar)
2011: 6 (UCONN, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Washington, Louisville, Boston U)
2006: 6 (West Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Iona)
2003: 6 (Michigan St, Notre Dame, Arizona St, Gonzaga, Louisville, Indiana)
2014: 5 (Michigan St, Baylor, North Carolina, Louisville, Providence)
2002: 5 (Indiana, Kent St, Duke, Notre Dame, Western Kentucky)
2013: 4 (Louisville, Duke, Notre Dame, Long Island)
2008: 4 (North Carolina, Louisville, San Diego, Indiana)
2009: 3 (North Carolina, Louisville, West Virginia)
2005: 3 (North Carolina, Louisville, Kansas)
2004: 3 (North Carolina, Michigan St, Louisville)
2010: 2 (Louisville, Sam Houston St.)
I think it’s likely this year’s team lands somewhere in the middle here. They have 3 basically locked in. The max is probably 5, with one of the their major opponents (like UCLA) sneaking in and then Albany or another surprise low-conference winner. But how about the 2000 team? TEN TEAMS made the tournament. Look at that slate of teams they played in the non-conference. On the other end, the John Wall, Boogie team was a truly great team but their non-conference schedule was soft as charmin. Did that hurt them in the NCAA Tournament having faced so few quality opponents?