Skip to content

Could Kentucky actually be NIT bound?

Jan 23, 2013, 9:20 AM EDT

Crimson Tide Basketball Game G17 vs Kentucky Wildcats

In 2011-2012, Kentucky didn’t lose an SEC game until March 11th. It was Selection Sunday and the Wildcats lost to Vanderbilt in the SEC title game. It was Kentucky’s second loss of the season, the first of which came on Christian Watford’s memorable buzzer-beater back in December.

On Tuesday night, the 2012-2013 version of the Wildcats went into Tuscaloosa and lost their second SEC game of the season, 59-55 to the Crimson Tide. On January 22nd. In an SEC that is no where near as strong as it was a season ago. To an Alabama team that couldn’t figure out a way to beat Mercer or Tulane just nine days after the Wildcats lost at home to a Texas A&M team that lost to Southern.

I’ve defended the Wildcats all season long. I’ve said that there’s no way a team with this much talent, with four future lottery picks, can miss the tournament in a season like this with a bubble that’s projecting to be the weakest it’s ever been. All along, I’ve said there is nothing that head coach John Calipari does better than get a group of misfits to somehow figure out to work together for seven months, how to put there differences aside and buy into a role and become a team.

I’m not so sure that’s the case anymore.

And it puts Kentucky in danger of actually missing out on the NCAA tournament.

The biggest issue is that the Wildcats haven’t answered any of the question marks they had two months ago. Alex Poythress is still an enigma. He’s got the talent and the ability to absolutely dominate, to be an all-american and the perfect compliment to Kyle Wiltjer and Nerlens Noel along the front line. He just doesn’t seem to know how to take over a game or put together 40 minutes of maximum effort. Case in point: Poythress is shooting 62.1% from the floor this season, but he hasn’t taken more than nine shots in a game since Kentucky lost to Baylor on December 1st. He’s taken more than five shots in just one of Kentucky five SEC games.

Archie Goodwin is by far Kentucky’s highest-usage player, but he’s also by far their most inefficient, according to Kenpom. And even those numbers become inflated once you factor out Kentucky’s seven opponents that couldn’t crack Kenpom’s top 200. Take away those games, and he’s shooting 35.6% from the floor and 24.0% from three while his assist-to-turnover ratio drops from 1.05:1 to 0.77:1.

Willie Cauley-Stein is injured. Nerlens Noel simply isn’t a threat on the defensive end of the floor, and his ability to block shots has gotten Kentucky into lazy habits on the defensive end. Kyle Wiltjer has turned into their go-to scorer down the stretch despite the fact that asking Wiltjer to be much more than a spot-up shooter is a risk at this point in his development.

Add all of that up, and what it means is that Kentucky is now just 1-6 against the RPI top 100. That one win? Maryland, who is 64th in the RPI.

The Wildcats will get a couple of chances to land big wins during SEC play. They go home-and-home with Florida still (6th), visit Ole Miss (32nd) and host Missouri (27th). They also have the rematch with Texas A&M (57th) in College Station. And then there is the SEC tournament to think about.

So Kentucky’s not dead in the water yet.

But they currently have the profile of an NIT team, and if they don’t land a win over Florida — who looks like the best team in the country over the last two weeks — the Wildcats will probably have to win the rest of their SEC games, simply because they cannot afford a loss to a team like Tennessee (102nd), Vanderbilt (127th) or Georgia (181st) to avoid having the profile of an NIT team come Selection Sunday.

The bigger issue is what we have seen on the court.

Kentucky has looked like an NIT team. And they haven’t done anything to persuade those watching that a change is coming in the near future.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Highlights from San Francisco’s ‘Hilltop Hoopsfest’ event (VIDEO)

    Oct 19, 2014, 10:57 PM EDT

    Rex Walters AP

    Junior forward Mark Tollefsen may be one of the best dunkers in America.

  2. Louisville takes next step in season preparations with their annual Red-White Scrimmage

    Oct 19, 2014, 8:49 PM EDT

    Chris Jones, Dillon Avare Chris Jones, Dillon Avare

    Chris Jones’ three-pointer in the final seconds gave the White team a 75-72 win over the Red.

  3. Fractured foot to sideline Maryland forward 4-6 weeks

    Oct 19, 2014, 6:59 PM EDT

    Evan Smotrycz AP

    Evan Smotrycz was re-evaluated Saturday after suffering the injury at the end of practice Friday.

  4. Durand Johnson returns in Pittsburgh’s Blue-Gold Scrimmage

    Oct 19, 2014, 6:36 PM EDT

    Durand Johnson, Zach Gordon Durand Johnson, Zach Gordon

    Johnson last played in live action on January 11, when he suffered a torn ACL in the Panthers’ loss to Virginia.

  5. 6-foot-10 center verbally commits to Colorado State

    Oct 19, 2014, 4:42 PM EDT

    Larry Eustachy Larry Eustachy

    With three of their five seniors being front court players, Colorado State needs to add depth ahead of the 2015-16 season. Sunday’s commitment will help in this area.

  6. Led by senior forward Alan Williams, UCSB capable of earning first NCAA tournament bid since 2011

    Oct 19, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    UCSB's Alan Williams (AP Photo) AP

    Alan Williams gets most of the attention nationally, but he won’t be alone as the Gauchos look to rebound from last year’s disappointing finish.

  7. La Salle gets commitment from 2015 guard

    Oct 19, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    Wichita St. v La Salle Getty Images

    La Salle nabbed a talented combo guard.

  8. Kentucky center Dakari Johnson has lost 20 pounds

    Oct 19, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    Dakari Johnson AP

    A more mobile Dakari Johnson could be a scary thought.

  9. 2014-15 Big West Preview: UC Irvine, UCSB lead highly competitive race

    Oct 19, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    UC Irvine head coach Russell Turner (AP Photo) UC Irvine head coach Russell Turner (AP Photo)

    An entertaining regular season was followed by a wild conference tournament in 2013-14. Will that once again be the case?

  10. Purdue tests out ultra-big line-up during scrimmage

    Oct 19, 2014, 10:45 AM EDT

    A.J. Hammons AP

    Purdue is in the unique position of having two talented centers on the roster.

  11. Freshman Sam Logwood wins New Mexico dunk contest (VIDEO)

    Oct 19, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    adidas adidas

    Freshman wing Sam Logwood of New Mexico can get up.

  12. Three-star guard/forward becomes Texas Tech’s second 2015 commitment

    Oct 19, 2014, 1:10 AM EDT

    Texas Tech Texas Basketball AP

    With Texas Tech’s top two guards being upperclassmen, C.J. Williamson’s commitment is an important one for the program.

  13. Highlights from Arizona’s annual Red-Blue Game (VIDEO)

    Oct 19, 2014, 12:25 AM EDT

    Rondae Hollis-Jefferson AP

    Rondae Hollis-Jefferson led the victorious Red team with 13 points, and Stanley Johnson scored a game-high 17 to lead the Blue team.

  14. Chris Hawkins wins dunk contest at Memphis Madness (VIDEO)

    Oct 18, 2014, 10:59 PM EDT

    Josh Pastner Josh Pastner

    Southwest Tennessee CC transfer Chris Hawkins showed off his jumping ability in winning the dunk contest at Memphis Madness.

  15. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo discusses possibility of a game at The Palestra

    Oct 18, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Michigan State’s played in many different places throughout Izzo tenure, but they’ve yet to visit The Palestra.

  16. UConn unveils championship banners at ‘First Night’ (VIDEO)

    Oct 18, 2014, 8:06 PM EDT

    Geno Auriemma, Kevin Ollie Geno Auriemma, Kevin Ollie

    UConn showed off its new trophies while also paying homage to some former greats during their annual preseason event Friday night.

  17. Indian Hills CC big man to announce college choice Monday

    Oct 18, 2014, 6:43 PM EDT

    Indian Hills Community College Indian Hills Community College

    Arkansas, Iowa State, Rutgers and Washington remain in contention for 6-foot-9 Malik Dime.

  18. Columbia loses two players, including guard who was expected to factor into their rotation

    Oct 18, 2014, 5:15 PM EDT

    Columbia University Athletics Columbia University Athletics

    Meiko Lyles’ departure means that one of Columbia’s other supplementary pieces will need to step forward.

  19. Report: Auburn commit Trayvon Reed’s trial gets delayed

    Oct 18, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    NBPA Top 100 camp NBPA Top 100 camp

    Trayvon Reed will have to wait until December to continue his legal proceedings..

  20. Behind Thompson and Comer, Dunk City looks to take flight once again this March

    Oct 18, 2014, 3:02 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Both Bernard Thompson and Brett Comer started all three games for Florida Gulf Coast during the 2013 Sweet 16 run. After a one-year hiatus, the Dunk City duo want back in the field of 68.