Kentucky basketball: Wildcats final 5 games pivotal to SEC tournament seeding

Kentucky Wildcats forward Isaiah Jackson ( Credit: Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)
Kentucky Wildcats forward Isaiah Jackson ( Credit: Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) /

The road to March Madness is quickly approaching but for Kentucky basketball their hopes of going dancing solely rest on them flat out winning the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

That is a very, very, very tall order and with just five regular-season games remaining a look into the crystal ball shows the Wildcats have a lot of work to do in these games to improve its seeding and can ill afford to lose them.

The SEC Tournament tips off at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on March 10. Supposedly

The NCAA announced last week it was giving conferences the choice of how to award their automatic bids and have until February 26 to decide.  While they could opt to just send the regular-season champion from the SEC, Calipari believes that won’t happen despite being caught off guard last week by the NCAA announcement.

"“When was that announced? Today?  Again, it must have been while I was in practice. Um, wow. Well, I think they need flexibility because there’s some leagues that just don’t want to bring their teams together. There’s some leagues that will probably opt to only have the regular season be it and there’s no reason for them to run a conference tournament. But my guess would be for us that we’ll have a tournament. But the powers that be will make that decision and we’ll see.”"

Kentucky (6-13, 5-7) remains in the middle of the conference standings a perilous spot where the scales could tip either way in their favor or completely knock them off.

Five games to go will decide Kentucky basketball’s postseason

The Wildcats remaining games begin with two road games at Vanderbilt at 7 pm on Wednesday, and heading across the Volunteer state to Knoxville to tangle with No. 19 Tennessee on Saturday.

They then return home to host Florida and Texas A&M next week before heading to Ole Miss on March 2 to close out the regular season.

Kenpom has them winning against Vandy and Texas A&M, but dropping the others. The toss-up is Florida where the Gators are factored to win by one point. While Florida will be looking for revenge for the 76-58 beat down Kentucky handed them in Gainsville, hopefully, Rupp Arena will be good for the Cats.

Ole Miss had been struggling before winning their last five games so that game looms large especially with the Rebels sitting just ahead of Kentucky in the current standings.

More than likely if Kentucky holds serve and wins three of these games they would finish 8-9 and in reality remain in eighth place for seeding. That would mean winning three games to make the championship, but facing top-seeded Alabama in the quarterfinals may spell doom.

Given Covid and turbulent waters the final standings more than likely play out like this with a few teams switching a spot or two. Only the top 12 teams make the tournament. This is speculation on how things end up and seeding.

No. 1 Alabama

No. 2 Arkansas

No. 3 LSU

No. 4 Tennessee

No. 5 Florida

No. 6 Missouri

No. 7 Mississippi

No. 8 Kentucky

No. 9 Mississippi State

No. 10 Auburn

No. 11 Georgia

No. 12 South Carolina

No. 13 Texas A&M

No. 14 Vanderbilt

Kentucky would open against Mississippi State in the second round. Kentucky won a double-overtime thriller 78-73 to open SEC regular season play against the Bulldogs.

That would mean a quarterfinal battle with top-seed Alabama who has handled the Wildcats in both games thus far 85-65 and 70-59. This is why they need to improve their seeding and pull out a few more wins coming up and get some help from other teams.

If the Cats could manage to get a No. 7 seed they could face South Carolina in the opening round and then LSU in the quarterfinals possibly. Kentucky and the Gamecocks never met this season with their game being canceled due to Covid. They beat LSU 82-69.

Just like winter weather in the Bluegrass it only takes a mere mile or in the case a single slot to see big changes. Team Rankings has Kentucky with just a 2.94% chance to win the tournament. If it comes down to Kentucky and Ole Miss being tied for seeding purposes the final game on March 2 would have huge implications.

Kentucky’s trajectory rests in its hands will they fire or falter down the stretch?