The Kentucky Wildcats entered this season fresh off of the eighth national championship in program history. Kentucky also boasted a recruiting class ranked second in the nation according to ESPN, behind only the UCLA Bruins. Based on their potential, the Wildcats entered the preseason rankings as the third-ranked team in the country.
However, the Wildcats lost an early season game to a Duke team that was ranked ninth in the nation at the time. After losing back-to-back games to unranked teams, Notre Dame (Nov. 29) and Baylor (Dec. 1), the Wildcats fell out of the Top-25 ranking for the first time under head coach John Calipari. After a 59-55 loss last night to Alabama, the Wildcats remain unranked with a 12-6 record.
So in looking forward to the NCAA tournament, what seed can Kentucky fans expect for their Wildcats?
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, their tournament résumé is very weak at this point. Kentucky is ranked 59th in the nation in the most recent RPI rankings. Against the RPI Top 50, Kentucky is 0-3, and they are only 2-6 versus the RPI Top 100.
The Wildcats have not beaten a ranked team this year, and the team does not have a signature win at this point in the season. In past NCAA tournaments, teams with similar résumés have found themselves on the outside looking in.
The strength of schedule ranking for Kentucky does not provide them with much help either. Their strength of schedule is currently ranked 44th in the nation at 0.5593. Kentucky has four games versus teams currently ranked in Top 25 on their remaining schedule. Those four games should improve their strength of schedule, but an otherwise weak SEC schedule could also hurt their rating.
The SEC Conference Power Rating is currently seventh in the nation at 105.9, slightly above the Atlantic 10 and Missouri Valley Conference.
The one thing that Kentucky has in their favor is potential. The Wildcats are a young team with tremendous potential who could catch fire at any point in the remainder of this season.
Kentucky relies on a number of young players who can only improve as they continue to mature and gain playing experience. This team’s X-factor remains point guard Ryan Harrow. If Harrow can begin to develop into a point guard similar to some of his predecessors, Kentucky could become a vastly improved team.
In the most recent Bracketology projections released by Joe Lunardi on ESPN, the Kentucky Wildcats are a 10-seed in the West. Based on the numbers, I also believe that Kentucky is going to be a double-digit seed heading into this year’s NCAA tournament. Their best case scenario could potentially be an eight or nine seed, while their worst case scenario would be an 11, 12 or even 13 seed.
However, with their potential, Kentucky could easily take the role of a “bracket buster” in the tournament and be a double-digit seed that advances to the tournament’s later rounds.