Thursday, February 09, 2006

Kentucky, a basketball state

In most years, the commonwealth of Kentucky is known as a college basketball superstate. Along with Indiana and North Carolina, Kentucky is filled to the rim with good, NCAA tournament quality teams. From the perennially great University of Kentucky, to the relatively recent powerhouse of Louisville (hey, where were they BEFORE the 1980s), to Murray State, to my alma mater Western Kentucky. Add a sprinkling of Eastern Kentucky, Morehead State from time to time and the greatest D2 program in history, Kentucky Wesleyan and its easy to see what I mean.

This year however, may be a bit of a dry spell. Let's break these teams down starting with the least likely to make the NCAA tournament, to the most likely.

We'll start with the easiest. Morehead State. They're toast. They own exactly TWO wins in the Ohio Valley Conference and only three overall. One of those against a D3 team.

Eastern Kentucky. One of the teams that actually lost to Morehead State. But a new coach means things are changing after Travis Ford took them to the Dance last season then punched his ticket to UMass. Give them time, but this year, they deserve butter and jam almost as much as Morehead State.

Louisville. This one is in the shocker catergory. Granted, I didn't expect UofL to do well in its new conference home, the Big (L)east, but Louisville has been downright awful. They are 15-8 overall (THANK YOU Creampuff out of conference schedule!!) but only 3-7 in the conference. Plenty of games left to play, but they're schedule is a bear. Games at West Virginia (8-0 in conference), at Syracuse, at UConn, and at home against Marquette. UofL's only real chance of making the NCAAs is to win the Big East tournament. Problem is, the lowest four teams in conference standings, don't qualify for said tournament. Where does UofL rank? Tied for that last tournament birth with Rutgers. Rutgers owns the tiebreaker and has a MUCH easier schedule the rest of the way. UofL, do you prefer strawberry preserves or orange marmalade?

Murray State. MSU started shaky, but leads a very sorry Ohio Valley Conference. I like they're chances, but as shaky as they are, they could still stumble. No chance at an at-large. Win and you're in. Lose and you're TOAST!!!! YEAH TOAST! I give Murray a 70% chance of getting in.

Western Kentucky. Ok, I REALLY wanted to put Kentucky behind WKU, but my brain is bigger than my heart today. WKU had a chance to nail down an at-large bid this season with a solid OOC slate. A win over Virginia and a road victor over UAB would look great on an NCAA resume. However, losses to Pacific and Troy (TROY!!??!?!?) kiled that dream in its sleep. So now WKU (16-5, 8-1) must win the SunBelt tournament being held in Murfreesboro, TN. Not a terrible task. The 'Boro is just an hour and fifteen minutes from WKU's campus (if driven illegally fast) and WKU has been in the driver's seat in the conference all year. The key will be to avoid tourney host MTSU. But I give WKU a 85% chance to make the tourney.

Barring an apocalyptic meltdown (all apologies to Cortney Basham at The Bracket Board blog) UK is in. They've got wins over West Virginia and Louisville. They're staying afloat in the SEC which isn't good top to bottom, but hosts two excellent teams in Tennessee and Florida. Key for UK will be to stay over .500 in the SEC. Games with at Vandy, at UT, at LSU and Florida in Rupp means UK must take care of business in their other conference games. A loss to South Carolina, Georgia or Ole Miss and UK's chances go from good to toasty. Right now, I give UK an 86% chance of getting in.

So this year is a lousy one in college basketball, by Kentucky standards. Of course being the biased individual I am, I am rooting for Murray and UK to stumble so WKU can make the dance and enjoy the unfettered media coverage.

1 comment:

Piccu said...

You may get your wish. I believe UK will win Sat. at Vandy because Mario Moore will be out and that will help some. I also have to believe that the Cats will come out with a little more fire after the loss to UT, but I have thought that before.

I'll give them Ole Miss and Georgia, but after USC's beating of Florida AT Florida last night, I am very worried about that road game, especially since UK only won by one at home. I am already conceding at LSU, at UT, and Florida at home.

Like I said in my column this week, UK does not have the talent or experience. I don't know if they will be this good next year. I hope the year of experience helps, but the Perrys and Thomases need more than experience.

U of L is dead, they are as bad or worse than UK. The other schools I have no idea about, but it sounds like it is tough all over. Like they say in Chicago every October, "There's always next year."