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Kentucky second defending champ in four years to miss NCAA Tournament

Mar 17, 2013, 6:59 PM EDT

SEC Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals - Vanderbilt v Kentucky Getty Images

We now know for a fact that there will be a new champion in college basketball.

The Kentucky Wildcats, who won it all last season, are among the teams on the outside looking in after the 68-team field was announced on Sunday evening.

Despite going 12-6 in SEC play the Wildcats found themselves on the outside looking in, with the torn ACL suffered by center Nerlens Noel being one of the factors that led to their being left out of the field.

With just three RPI Top 50 victories, two of which came in Lexington, and a record of 4-4 since Noel went down in a loss at Florida the odds were stacked against John Calipari’s team following their SEC tournament loss to Vanderbilt on Friday night.

But even before Noel’s injury the season was a struggle for the Wildcats, given their youth and the fact that this group lacked the stabilizing veterans that the 2012 team possessed. A season filled with peaks and valleys ends up where few expected it to before the season began: outside of the NCAA tournament.

Kentucky becomes the second defending champion in the last four years to miss the NCAA tournament the following season, as North Carolina missed the field in 2010 after the 2009 team cut down the nets in Detroit.

With the nation’s best recruiting class due to arrive on campus in a few months optimism will once again reign among the Kentucky faithful, and with players such as the Harrison twins on board the perimeter play will be much improved. And to be frank the Wildcats aren’t done recruiting either, as both Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon remain on the board.

Many entered the season believing that Kentucky would be a lock to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament, and it can be argued that some of that belief may have seeped down into the players.

But nothing is guaranteed, and the young Wildcats received a painful reminder of this on Selection Sunday.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

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