LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky basketball has completely changed the narrative in the last 10 days by answering a four-game losing streak with three consecutive double-digit wins over projected NCAA Tournament teams. The Wildcats have also brightened their NCAA Tournament outlook significantly.
The latest projections at CBS, ESPN and USA Today — and the Bracket Matrix, which tallies those and several other bracketology predictions — have Kentucky in the 4/5-seed range and trending up. Beat Ole Miss at home and Florida on the road to close the regular season, then make a deep SEC Tournament run and the Wildcats could be sitting pretty come Selection Sunday.
While a No. 5 seed is the consensus, Shelby Mast at USA Today, who told SEC Country last week that UK could climb as high as a No. 3 seed if it wins out through the conference tournament, currently has the Cats as a No. 4.
After taking out Alabama, Arkansas on the road and Missouri in convincing fashion, Kentucky (20-9, 9-7) has climbed to No. 15 in the RPI and No. 24 on KenPom.com. The Cats have no losses outside the top 75 but do have six RPI top-50 wins: No. 26 Texas A&M, at No. 27 Arkansas, at No. 30 West Virginia, No. 37 Louisville, No. 42 Missouri and No. 44 Alabama.
Kentucky’s worst loss in the KenPom rankings is at No. 79 South Carolina, but it has eight wins against that site’s top 50 teams: at No. 12 West Virginia, No. 30 Texas A&M, No. 33 Louisville, No. 34 Virginia Tech, at No. 38 Arkansas, No. 45 Missouri, No. 47 Alabama, No. 50 Mississippi State.
And what about potential first-weekend destinations for the Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament? There’s still a lot of basketball to be played before we can seriously discuss this, but just for fun: CBS has UK in the East Region, while ESPN has them in the Midwest, but both sites project Boise, Idaho, as the site of BBN’s opening weekend.
USA Today has a sunnier projection: San Diego to start off in the East Region.
CBS has 5 seed UK facing the winner of a 12 seed play-in game between UCLA and Texas — so either a rematch with the Bruins or a showdown with former top Cats recruit Mohamed Bamba. ESPN has 5 seed Kentucky facing 12 seed Loyola-Chicago, a 25-win team that beat Florida in Gainesville in December. And USA Today has the 4 th-seeded Cats facing 13 seed New Mexico State, which has a win over Miami but also two sub-100 losses this season.
Between now and the real bracket reveal, Kentucky just needs to keep winning.
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