Cats’ big dance streak still in limbo after big wins

For the past 17 years, UK has had its share of March Madness, competing in the NCAA tournament every spring since the 1990-91 season.

But with the Cats showing an overall losing record and going only .500 in Southeastern Conference play, UK’s streak in the NCAA tournament is at serious risk.

“I think it’s almost impossible,” said Chris Kulenych of Bracketology 101, a basketball blog. “It’s looking more like a NIT year. (UK) should look at an NCAA bid next year.”

Right now, UK (8-9, 2-2) is not expected to make the field in any of the early projections on, the Bracketology 101 blog or other major bracketology sites.

Bracketology is the name given to early projections of the NCAA Tournament field. Bracketology sites use factors including a team’s record in its last 10 games, key wins and losses, and conference and non-conference records.

“For UK it’s going to be all about their conference performance because they aren’t going to get in on their non-conference resume this year,” ESPN’s Joe Lundari said.

With home losses to San Diego and Gardner-Webb and no road wins, UK is fighting an uphill battle toward this year’s NCAA Tournament. Another problem for UK is the national perception that the SEC is having a down year.

“It’s a double-edge sword,” Lundari said. “There are not as many great teams. Normally you go to Florida and that’s a huge game. Right now Florida is not in the field.”

UK’s two conference wins were colossal to say the least, with the double-overtime win over Vanderbilt, then ranked No. 13, and UK’s recent upset of No. 3 Tennessee. The two wins have given the Cats life, but according to Lundari, it’s going to take more than just those two conference wins.

“If they can get 11, maybe 12 wins in the league, whether it’s in the regular season or two or three in the conference tournament, (they have a chance),” Lundari said. “They are going to have to exceed in conference what other teams around the country are doing because they don’t have anything else to fall back on.”

UK’s upcoming schedule is favorable, with the Cats going on the road only twice in their next five games. If the Cats are going to make a turnabout into tournament consideration, they are going to need to win as many road games as they can, said Bracketology 101’s Kulenych.

“UK has a chance if they can win at Tennessee and Vandy,” he said. “Home wins won’t help. And (UK) needs to make a deep run in the SEC tournament.”

Winning the SEC tournament may be UK’s best shot, since conference tournament winners receive automatic bids into the NCAA tournament. If UK can’t make the run in conference they need and don’t win the SEC tournament, the Cats will have to hope their resume is good enough for the other postseason tournament, the NIT.

Even with an extra 32 teams picked for the NIT on top of the 64 picked for the NCAA tournament, without at least an even record, UK will need some luck on their side, said Lundari.

“No team is a lock for the NIT unless they are .500 or better,” he said. “You have to look down the road and say, ‘Can we beat a few teams on the road and go .500 the rest of the way?’ Otherwise they won’t qualify.”