The selection show for the 2019 NCAA Women’s basketball tournament is a little over a day away. The Kentucky Wildcats will find out its seeding along with the path it will have to take to make a run deep into March, and potentially into April, on Monday at 7 p.m. on ESPN.
ESPN currently has the UK Hoops squad as a six-seed in the Greensboro region, facing Rice University in round one located in Raleigh, North Carolina. A top-four seed might be too much to ask for at this point, especially following the loss in the SEC tournament to the Missouri Tigers, but the top-six should almost be guaranteed. Receiving a top-four seed means that the Wildcats would play its first two rounds in Lexington at Memorial Coliseum, but they would have most likely needed to at least make the SEC Championship game to ensure that. Now, they are projected to be grouped into a set where NC State is the three seed and hosts the first two rounds.
Let’s go over Kentucky’s resume ahead of the selection show and try to better figure out where this team could be seeded.
RECORD: 24-7 (11-5 in SEC play)
- 16-6 against teams that finished with winning records.
- 8-1 against teams that finished with losing records.
- 2-5 against teams that were ranked in the top-25 at the time.
KEY WINS: North Carolina (N), UCLA (N), @ Tennessee, vs. South Carolina, vs. Missouri
BAD LOSSES: @ Ole Miss
HER HOOPS OFFENSIVE RATING: 106.8 – ranks 41st out of 351 teams
HER HOOPS DEFENSIVE RATING: 78.8 – ranks 10th out of 351 teams
HER HOOPS STATS RATING: 28.0 – ranks 18th out of 251 teams
Simple RPI – 61.4 percent – ranks 18th out of 351 teams
Kentucky averages 100.3 points per 100 possessions on offense (56 out of 351 teams) while holding opponents to only 82.3 points per 100 possessions (22 out of 351 teams). The Wildcats margin of victory this season, plus-13.5, is also one of the highest marks in the country, ranking 24th nationally.
Compared to other projected four-seeds such as South Carolina and Texas A&M – teams that Kentucky went 1-3 against this season – the Wildcats don’t stack up quite as evenly. The strength of schedule favors the two fellow members of the SEC and the head-to-head wins obviously don’t favor the Cats. The other two projected four-seeds – Oregon State and Iowa State – have considerably better overall resumes than Kentucky, especially Iowa State. But Kentucky does have a legitimate argument for a five-seed.
Missouri is projected to claim a five-seed over the Cats, despite splitting the season series 1-1. The other five-seeds – Arizona State, Gonzaga, and Marquette – all have arguments to be replaced by Kentucky. Missouri’s strength of overall schedule gives the team a boost in its resume, but one extra conference loss and three more overall losses than the Cats are hard to ignore. The Tigers win over then-ranked No. 5 Mississippi State is better than anything Kentucky can brag about, but conference losses to Florida, Auburn, and LSU along with an early season loss to Green Bay should not be overlooked. Arizona State is probably solid as a five-seed but arguments could be made for Kentucky over both Gonzaga and Marquette – two teams that post slightly better production numbers on both sides of the court as the Cats but played considerably worse overall schedules.
I think a six-seed should be the worst case scenario for the Cats and a five-seed is likely its ceiling. A four-seed just seems like way too much of a stretch without any notable wins in the SEC tournament. Had the Cats been able to knock off Missouri, they would have faced the eventual champion Mississippi State Bulldogs anyways. With the way the Bulldogs have been playing over the last month, it’s hard to believe Kentucky could have pulled off the upset, but the fact that Missouri could find itself a spot ahead of the Cats speaks to the value of that quarterfinals matchup in which Mizzou beat Kentucky. If the Tigers claim a five-seed while the Wildcats fall to a six, we can look at that game as a major reason why. Now, if Kentucky had taken down Missouri in overtime and then found a way to send the Bulldogs home, a four-seed would be on the table. An SEC tournament championship could have opened up the potential for a three-seed, but that’s irrelevant now.
A matchup with Rice?
If the ESPN projections end up being accurate (and I feel like the actual matchups themselves normally aren’t), the Cats could be looking at taking on Rice University in round one. To give a quick idea of who they are, just know that they did not lose a conference game this season, going 16-0 and posting an overall record of 28-3. Now, two of the Owls three losses this season have come against teams that Kentucky beat (North Carolina and UCLA) and the other loss was a season-opener against Texas A&M. Rice starts a 6-foot-9 sophomore, Nancy Mukley, who is one of the nation’s best shot blockers and its star is Erica Ogwumike, who averaged 16.3 points and 10.8 rebounds per game this season.
Don’t forget to watch the announcement of the bracket live on ESPN at 7 p.m. on Monday.
(Stats via Her Hoops Stats)