AUBURN, Ala. — NIT, NIT, NIT. Kentucky endured the chant from Auburn fans who haven’t seen their program in the NCAA Tournament since 2003.
Those three letters rang throughout Auburn Arena just before the Tigers sealed a 76-66 win against the Wildcats on Wednesday night.
In 2018, Auburn and Kentucky’s postseason places might just be reversed. The 10th-ranked Tigers are cruising atop the SEC while John Calipari’s unranked Cats (17-9, 6-7 SEC) fell below .500 in conference play.
Any argument against Kentucky missing the NCAA Tournament seemed flimsy weeks ago, but now the Cats have lost four consecutive games.
“I’ve got one thought,” Calipari said when asked if there’s concern his team could miss the Big Dance. “Let’s just try to win the next game. Just win a game.”
That next game is Saturday against Alabama at Rupp Arena. Kentucky has five games left: Alabama, at Arkansas, Missouri, Ole Miss, at Florida.
“I really believe if we win a game we’ll get going,” Calipari said. “I’ve had teams in this kind of mode that we’re in, but the league is different, that we could go get a league game somewhere and we knew, ‘OK, finally.’ Well, guess what? Did Vanderbilt win tonight? I mean there’s none here. You better come and play.”
The SEC is projected to get up to eight teams in the NCAA Tournament in what would be a record showing for the conference. It’s a double-edged sword. The strength of the SEC could boost Kentucky’s resume even with a lackluster record. But it could also be a strong enough punch to knock the Wildcats right out of the tournament for just the third time this century.
Just as Calipari stood up to end his press conference and leave the room, he was asked a final question: Does he see a possible Final Four run in this team?
“Yeah, I do,” Calipari said. “If that’s a No. 1 seed and we’re on their court and we’ve got a 4, 6-point lead with a chance.”
It was a kind of optimism Calipari has held onto this season. He’s talked about “not cracking” over and over again.
Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament chances haven’t yet cracked, but the fissures are beginning to widen.
The post Kentucky basketball: Auburn fans chant ‘NIT’ as Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament chances take downward turn appeared first on SEC Country.