Skip to content

Could Kentucky actually be NIT bound?

Jan 23, 2013, 9:20 AM EST

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. Late Night Snacks: West Virginia, Miami win in-season tournament titles

    Nov 24, 2014, 1:10 AM EST

    Juwan Staten, Terrence Samuels Juwan Staten, Terrence Samuels

    No. 1 Kentucky set a new school record, Ohio State’s Shannon Scott broke Aaron Craft’s single-game assist record and more.

  2. Miami caps 4-0 week with second Gildan Charleston Classic title

    Nov 23, 2014, 11:49 PM EST

    McClellan Fernandez Palmer Rodriguez Lecomte Thomas McClellan Fernandez Palmer Rodriguez Lecomte Thomas

    A week that began with a win at No. 7 Florida ended with a commanding victory over Charlotte at the Gildan Charleston Classic.

  3. West Virginia shows signs of progress in Puerto Rico Tipoff win over No. 17 UConn

    Nov 23, 2014, 9:57 PM EST

    Bob Huggins Bob Huggins

    West Virginia has better depth and toughness than they had a season ago, and those improvements paid off in Puerto Rico this weekend.

  4. #POSTERIZED: Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s John Jordan takes flight (VIDEO)

    Nov 23, 2014, 8:55 PM EST

    John Jordan, Miles Reynolds John Jordan, Miles Reynolds

    The 5-foot-10 guard has a standing vertical of 38 inches. That’s pretty good.

  5. Rutgers’ Kadeem Jack scores 13 points in first action of the season

    Nov 23, 2014, 8:10 PM EST

    Kadeem Jack, Chris Hooper, Antonio Jenifer AP

    Kadeem Jack missed the first two games of the season with a thumb injury.

  6. New Mexico guard breaks bone in his hand during loss to Texas A&M

    Nov 23, 2014, 6:55 PM EST

    Peyton Allen, Arthur Edwards Peyton Allen, Arthur Edwards

    With Cullen Neal already dealing with an ankle injury, Arthur Edwards is the latest Lobo dealing with a health issue.

  7. Reserve big man one of four UConn players suspended for violation of team rules

    Nov 23, 2014, 5:34 PM EST

    Hunter Ware, Ryan Boatright Hunter Ware, Ryan Boatright

    Rakim Lubin was averaging five minutes per contest in UConn’s first three games.

  8. Danuel House’s Texas A&M debut a successful one in Puerto Rico

    Nov 23, 2014, 5:16 PM EST

    Danuel House, Nick Russell, Nic Moore AP

    House scored 18 points, shooting 7-for-11 from the field, in Texas A&M’s 64-51 win over New Mexico.

  9. Yale forward Matt Townsend named a Rhodes Scholar

    Nov 23, 2014, 3:55 PM EST

    (Yale athletics/dspics.com) (Yale athletics/dspics.com)

    Yale forward Matt Townsend was named a Rhodes Scholar this weekend, a rare honor only give to 32 American students each year.

  10. POSTERIZED: Welcome to the 2014-15 season, Danuel House (VIDEO)

    Nov 23, 2014, 2:41 PM EST

    Danuel House AP

    Danuel House made his presence felt immediately for Texas A&M.

  11. Assigned Reading: Oakland’s Tommy McCune has overcome a lot while showing flashes of great play

    Nov 23, 2014, 2:10 PM EST

    tommy mccune Getty Images

    Oakland forward Tommy McCune had to overcome the loss of his mother after she lost her battle with cancer, but he’s shown flashes of great play early this season as he moves forward.

  12. Four-star 2015 big man cuts his list to three then visits SEC powerhouse

    Nov 23, 2014, 12:00 PM EST

    (Nike) (Nike)

    One of the best unsigned players in the 2015 class is down to three schools but then visited another school on Friday night.

  13. POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Larry Nance Jr. throws down an alley-oop in traffic

    Nov 23, 2014, 11:00 AM EST

    Larry Nance (AP Photo) AP

    Looks like Larry Nance Jr. is fully recovered from last season’s ACL injury.

  14. Division III school makes buzzer-beating three-pointer against same opponent in back-to-back years (VIDEOS)

    Nov 23, 2014, 10:00 AM EST

    NCAA Men's Final Four - Practice Getty Images

    This is one of the wildest buzzer-beaters I’ve ever seen and the back story makes it that much more incredible.

  15. Pregame Shootaround: Tip-Off Tournaments and some ranked teams headline Sunday

    Nov 23, 2014, 9:10 AM EST

    AP AP

    Tournament action resumes on a busy Sunday of college hoops.

  16. Quinn Cook is thriving as an off-guard, and No. 4 Duke will reap the benefits

    Nov 23, 2014, 3:56 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Concerns about Cook moving off the ball seem foolish through five games.

  17. Late Night Snacks: Rhode Island, Wyoming pick up big home wins

    Nov 23, 2014, 2:00 AM EST

    Rhode Island's E.C. Matthews (0), Nebraska's Shavon Shields (31) AP

    No. 21 Nebraska was the lone ranked team to fall on Saturday, but give them credit for being willing to go on the road to play a dangerous opponent.

  18. Indiana’s Devin Davis in attendance for team’s win over Lamar (VIDEO)

    Nov 23, 2014, 12:05 AM EST

    Landon Atterberry Devin Davis AP

    Devin Davis has been rehabbing from injuries suffered on November 1 when he was struck by a car driven by teammate Emmitt Holt.