Looking ahead: UK’s NCAAT resume

UK guard Tyler Ulis (3) drives through traffic during the UK Men’s Basketball vs. Florida Gators game at Rupp Arena. UK defeated Florida 80 – 61

Josh Ellis

After avoiding what could have been the first three-game losing streak in the Calipari era, UK bounced back from its breakdown in Knoxville with a 80-61 win against Florida. The Gators had an opportunity to put another blemish on the Cats’ NCAA Tournament resume, but could not prevail.

A loss in Rupp Arena would have been a huge blow to the Cats’ NCAA Tournament hopes, as it is likely the only positive (13-0 at home) that sticks out on UK’s resume. 

With just eight more games until the SEC and NCAA Tournaments, UK is in desperate need of quality win. It’ll have a chance to earn some against South Carolina, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt — all of which are on the road.

But winning on the road has been another lingering problem for the Cats this season. Just 2-5 in true road games, UK needs to capitalize on at least one — if not two — if it doesn’t want anything worse than a 5-seed in the NCAA Tournament. 

Since its latest update Saturday morning, BracketMatrix (which takes the average seed of a team from 80 different brackets) has projected UK’s average seed as 6 (5.63). In ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology, UK is slated as a 5-seed in the Midwest region against the winner of UCLA-Syracuse. 

And against the teams in Lunardi’s mock bracket, UK holds a record of 3-3. The three wins come against Florida, Louisville and Duke, while the three losses are to Kansas, LSU and UCLA. But after the self-imposed postseason ban Louisville now has, that record is actually 2-3. Lunardi’s bracket was last updated on Feb. 5. 

But despite the Cats’ dominate performance against Florida on Saturday, head coach John Calipari still believes this team has a ways to go before they make try to make a run in March.

“Like we still have defensive plays where guys are getting beat back door or where we’re not running back and forming a wall. There’s just so many little things that you cannot be what you all want us to be until we can play 40 minutes of basketball, dig in and play,” Calipari said. “Every possession matters on defense. We’re not close to that right now.”

Florida head coach Mike White hinted that the guard play could carry UK far in March.

“I think guard play is extremely important. I think it masks other issues,” White said. “I think they have a really good frontcourt, personally, but I think they have an even better backcourt. And if those guys play like this every day, they’ll have a chance every night. They were fantastic today, those two guys (Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis), and (Isaiah) Briscoe is a really solid piece too.”

Overall record: 17-6

Home record: 13-0

Away record: 2-5

Neutral floor record: 2-1

Strength of Schedule: 50

RPI: 25

Last 10 games: 6-4


Final 8 Games:

Feb. 9 – Georgia

Feb. 13 – @ South Carolina

Feb. 18 – Tennessee

Feb. 20 – @ Texas A&M

Feb. 23 – Alabama

Feb. 27 – @ Vanderbilt

March 1 – @ Florida

March 5 – LSU