After Kentucky’s dominating performance against Ole Miss (which was preceded by 35 minutes of pretty damn good basketball against Florida), the talk this week seems to be centered on how far the Wildcats can advance in the NCAA Tournament. A team that some (many?) have failed to live up to expectations so far this season (even if most of those expectations were wildly unrealistic) appears to finally be putting the pieces together and potentially making a deep run in March.
Some are comparing this year’s Kentucky team to last year’s Michigan team or the Kentucky team from the 2010-2011 season, noting that those teams struggled during the regular season only to excel during post-season play. With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the teams from the last 5 Final Fours and examine their records after their first game in February, after their first game in March, their Tournament seed, and their path to the Final Four.
February 2: 20-2 (7-2 Big 10)
March 3: 24-5 (11-5 Big 10)
NCAA Tournament Seed: #4, South Regional
Path to Final Four: #13 South Dakota State, #5 Virginia Commonwealth, #1 Kansas, #3 Florida
February 4: 18-5 (6-4 Big East)
March 3: 22-9 (10-8 Big East)
NCAA Tournament Seed: #4, West Regional
Path to Final Four: #13 Davidson, #5 New Mexico, #1 Michigan State, #7 Florida
February 2: 17-4 (5-4 Big East)
March 2: 21-8 (9-8 Big East)
NCAA Tournament Seed: #3, West Regional
Path to Final Four: #14 Bucknell, #6 Cincinnati, #2 San Diego State, #5 Arizona
2010: Michigan State
February 2: 19-4 (9-1 Big 10)
March 4: 23-7 (12-4 Big 10)
NCAA Tournament Seed: #5
Path to Final Four: #12 New Mexico State, #4 Maryland, #Northern Iowa, #6 Tennessee
Each of the above teams, with the exception of Michigan last year, found themselves in similar positions as Kentucky this year. Kentucky’s record at the beginning of February? 16-5 (6-2 SEC). Assuming they win their next three games, they will find themselves with a 23-6 record (13-3 SEC), in line with every single team listed above. Does this mean Kentucky is going to make the Final Four? Of course not! But is it still possible? As the last few years have shown us, absolutely.