By the time the selection show rolled around, most UK fans were no longer deluding themselves.
Despite defeating tournament teams Missouri and Florida in the final weeks of the season, UK wasn’t in the NCAA tournament field announced Sunday night. Despite 6 wins against the RPI top 100, UK was passed over for the final at-large bids by Middle Tennessee State University and Lasalle. In multiple interviews following the unveiling of the bracket, selection committee chair Mike Bobinski cited UK’s record following the Noel’s season ending knee injury against Florida February 12th. He specifically highlighted their lack of a single win away from Rupp Arena in those games, which culminated in a lackluster performance while losing to Vanderbilt in the SEC quarterfinals. With Noel, UK had a 4-1 SEC road record, including an 87-74 victory at eventual SEC tournament champion Ole Miss. Following his injury they lost their last three regular season road games at Arkansas, Tennessee, and Georgia.
Unfortunately, the pain doesn’t end there for Cats fans.
Typically the NIT is played on the home court of the higher seed until the final 4 square off in Madison Square Garden. However, despite UK being selected as a #1 seed of the NIT, because Rupp Arena is hosting the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the NCAA tournament (including heated rival UofL with the #1 overall seed) they will open their NIT on the road against the Colonials of Robert Morris. The Colonials, regular season champions of the Northeastern Conference, will host the Wildcats in their 3056 seat arena only 2 miles from John Calipari’s high school. The game was not held at Memorial Hall due to a “limited staff availability to host a game” according to Associate Athletic Director DeWayne Peevy. UK has filed notice of its desire to host possible 2nd round and quarterfinal games at Rupp.
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