It’s tournament time again, which means everyone should be filling out their brackets. Pro Tip for this year: don’t tell other people about your bracket. They don’t care. If someone does ask how your bracket is doing, take that as a hint that you are very important to this person. In reality, the only bracket that really matters is the one that has the University of Kentucky going all the way, with no other spots filled in. This post, however, is going to focus primarily on the situation at hand- UK entering the NCAA Tournament. Let me first introduce you to some basic tournament info for UK:
If you’re talking UK and NCAA basketball statistics, there’s a good chance that UK is in the top 3 in any given stat. Not counting this season, UK has 53 NCAA Tournament appearances. This includes 39 Sweet Sixteen, 30 Elite Eight, 15 Final Four, and 11 Championship appearances, with 8 championship victories. UK has an all-time record of 111-46 in the NCAA Tournament in 53 total appearances. Using Cat Math, that is an average of 2.09 (we’ll round to 2) wins per tournament appearance. If the 2014 team has an “average” tournament year, by UK standards, they would beat Kansas State and presumably the now-undefeated Wichita State to reach the Sweet Sixteen. With the focus on Kansas State, here are some pre-game notes– primarily from a historic perspective:
Opening game information
-UK is 43-10 (.811) when playing its first game of the Tournament.
-In 8 v 9 games, UK is 2-1
-The last time UK was an 8 seed (2007), they defeated 9 seeded Villanova by a score of 67-58.
UK will be playing its first tournament game St. Louis, MO
-UK is 5-1 when playing a Tournament game in St. Louis
-The last time UK played a Tournament game in St. Louis, Tayshaun Prince scored 41 points vs. Tulsa
UK’s opening game opponent is Kansas State.
-UK is 8-0 all-time vs. K-State
-UK’s record is 24-10 (.706) and K-State’s is 20-12 (.625)
-K-State is 33-31 (.515) all-time in the NCAA Tournament
-Bruce Weber, current K-State head coach, has never coached against UK
Kentucky has faced K-State in the NCAA Tournament just one other time, a 67-57 UK victory in the 1951 Championship game
-UK enters the Tournament ranked 22nd. This will be the first time UK has played in the NCAA Tournament as the #22 team; however, UK is 11-2 for regular season games when holding that ranking
-UK has an overall NCAA Tournament record of 11-6 versus the other teams in the Midwest Region
-UK lost the SEC Championship game this season. Oddly, this could be a good sign for UK. UK has played in 6 NCAA Tournaments following an SEC Championship loss. In 3 of those 6 years, UK went on to win the National Championship (1951, 1996, 2012). Historically, UK is 20-3 in NCAA Tournament games during years of an SEC Championship loss.
As it would in any matchup, history is on UK’s side for its opening game vs. Kansas State. For the current season, it may not be quite as obvious. Both teams are battle-tested, combining for 19 games decided by 5 or fewer points. Recent results can help tell the tale, though. Kansas State has lost three consecutive games, while UK was a turnover away from potentially winning the SEC Championship. Basketball is a game of momentum. If recent results are any indicator, Kentucky certainly has the momentum advantage heading into the Tournament.
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Statistics and information were found through the following sources: