Andy Glockner of SI.com looks at the Kentucky Wildcats of making it into the NCAA tournament, and although he thinks they will make the field of 68, he also says there is a small margin of error.
For all the faux-gnashing of teeth about the Wildcats’ positioning in mid-January, there is some legitimate reason for concern. The SEC is decidedly mediocre this season, with only Florida and (assumedly) Missouri available as truly quality conquests in league play. Kentucky doesn’t play either of those teams until Feb. 12, when it visits the Gators, and gets both of those teams at Rupp later on. With only one nonconference win likely to even end up in the top 200, this has the smell of Billy Gillispie’s first season in Lexington in 2007-08, when the Cats ultimately squeezed in as an 11-seed.
Given the massive turnover from last season’s roster, this isn’t entirely shocking. In fact, in the early entry era, it’s not a stunner for the defending national champion to miss the NCAA tournament entirely the following season. Just in the last five years, it’s happened to North Carolina (2010) and Florida (2008).
I’d expect Kentucky to scrape through enough SEC games to make it into the eventual Field of 68, but its margin for error isn’t great. Another couple of surprises like Texas A&M walking into Rupp and walking out with a win, and the Cats could be gunning for a different type of title come March: The NIT.
Every game in the SEC has a ‘must win’ feel to them and with the loss to Texas A&M at home, not to mention squeaking by a very bad Vandy team, Kentucky can not overlook or take any team for granted.