The Kentucky Wildcats are destined for a date with the NIT.
It’s going to hurt Big Blue Nation supporters to hear, but the 2013 SEC tournament loss to Vanderbilt was the nail in the Wildcats’ coffin. When the selection committee unveils the 68-team field for the 2013 NCAA tournament, Kentucky will be nowhere to be found.
While there was a glimmer of hope when this team beat Missouri shortly after Nerlens Noel went down—and a legitimate chance of making the Big Dance after knocking out Florida—the fact remains that UK went 4-4 without its superstar big man.
As nice as those two wins were down the stretch, the losses to the Commodores, Georgia Bulldogs, Arkansas Razorbacks and Tennessee Volunteers are just too unsightly for the selection committee to ignore.
With an RPI of 56, 76th-ranked strength of schedule, poor non-conference SOS and a losing record to teams with a top-150 RPI (9-11), there’s just no way this squad deserves a chance to defend its title in 2013.
It’s not all doom and gloom in Lexington, as there’s a chance that some of these budding stars could stick around the Bluegrass State for another year.
Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin and Willie Cauley-Stein all showed flashes of brilliance during their first year under coach John Calipari, but they were also incredibly raw at times.
Without a March Madness bid, these freshman phenoms won't get a chance to improve their NBA draft stock with the world watching. While a solid run through the NIT would help, these are fringe lottery picks at best right now.
Perhaps they will find it would be wise to return for the 2013-14 season in order to try and bolster both their skills and standing while simultaneously returning Kentucky to prominence.
It’s been an arduous year for the Wildcats, and the campaign will likely end with an NIT appearance. But things could be looking up sooner than later for this group.