After a highly anticipated Selection Sunday, the results are in – and Kentucky did not receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Kentucky is the 5th defending National Champion to not make the NCAA Tournament since the field was expanded to 64 in 1985.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 17, 2013
The Wildcats, who were on the bubble much of the season, ultimately were left out for several mid-major schools instead; La Salle, Boise State, Saint Mary’s and Middle Tennessee State.
Kentucky will miss the tournament for just the second time in 22 years. The last NIT appearance for Big Blue was in 2009, with Billy Gillispie as head coach – as Cats fans like to call “the dark years.”
An NCAA Tournament without Kentucky is like a Carly Rae Jepsen concert without “Call Me Maybe.”
— Not Jerry Tipton (@NotJerryTipton) March 16, 2013
What happened to the defending National Champions? Why couldn’t a team with the overall No. 1 recruiting class capture one of the 37 at-large bids?
A huge contributing factor was losing star center, Nerlens Noel. After Noel’s season-ending injury, the Cats went 4-3 to finish out regular season play. But the dagger for Kentucky came in losing in the SEC Tournament to Vanderbilt.
Not only was UK coming off a clutch victory over Florida, but Bridgestone Arena was overwhelmingly decked in blue, giving the Cats a near home court advantage. What could go wrong? Seemingly everything.
The Commodores had the hot hand and simply couldn’t miss. The Wildcats, on the other hand, struggled offensively with Ryan Harrow only making 2-of-15 shots in 30 minutes of play. UK was blown out by a Vanderbilt team which wasn’t even in NCAA Tournament discussion.
The game left Kentucky fans feeling like this:
As soon as the 64-48 score was etched in stone, Kentucky dropped off of most bracketologists’ radars.
Selection Chair says UK “double digit” losses on road kept them out. This after they told me in Indy, victory margin didn’t matter. Strange
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) March 17, 2013
So – what’s next for the defending champs? Looks like they will get a No. 1 seed after all – in the NIT Tournament.
Wow, that’s a great question. Someone I follow retweeted. If UK wins NIT do they hang the banner?
— cory wheeler (@Corywheeler65) March 17, 2013
Obviously Kentucky fans are shocked and coping in different ways:
UK to NIT. Fans forced to find consolation in last year’s title, next year’s title & a documentary about how UK is the best program ever.
— Not Jerry Tipton (@NotJerryTipton) March 18, 2013
Some are watching a documentary on Kentucky basketball’s tradition:
— Top Gun Hatch (@Dylan_Hatchel) March 18, 2013\
Others are anxiously awaiting football season:
— Bleed Blue Kentucky (@BBK_Sports) March 17, 2013
And the true UK basketball fans are ready to cheer on their Wildcats in the NIT:
If your a true Kentucky fan, you will cheer on the cats in the NIT.
— Laura Dahlenburg (@lauradahlenburg) March 17, 2013
A UK fan can utilize any of these coping methods, but in reality, the result stays the same. Kentucky will take the road to play Robert Morris on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in Pittsburgh.