Folks in the Bluegrass State are up in arms today because their Wildcats landed a #4 seed rather than a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Looking at the #3 seeds in the field, UK does compare favorably with them in a couple of categories.
Below are each school’s RPI and SOS numbers as well as their records against the Top 50 and Top 100 RPI teams in the country:
||Vs RPI Top 50
||Vs RPI Top 100
||Last 10 Games
So who should Kentucky be seeded above?
Scratch BYU. The Cougars have a better record, better RPI, and an 8-2 finish equal to UK’s. That 81% winning percentage against Top 50 foes is eye-popping, too.
As for the Big East squads, it’s apparent the selection committee gave the nod to that league for its #1 RPI rank overall. The SEC ranked #5 in the RPI among conferences. (In UConn’s case, the Huskies also played a staggering 20 games against Top 50 opponents and beat the Cats by 17 way back in November.)
In our view, Purdue would be the most likely school to have flip-flopped with UK on the 3-4 line. While the Boilermakers had a slightly better record, the Cats had a slightly better RPI and a tougher strength of schedule. However, Purdue played three more games against Top 100 foes than UK did. Comparing conferences, the Big Ten was also #2 in RPI to the SEC’s #5.
If you’re looking for a clear-cut reason to put UK ahead of anyone in the field, you can find it. But if you’re objectively looking at their seed, you see that there are reasons for and against moving them up. (As we stated earlier today, UK’s 2-6 mark on the road in SEC play likely stood out to the committee. Syracuse was 7-3 in conference road games, UConn was 4-4 in league road games, and Purdue was 5-4 in those type games.)
John Calipari said of his team’s #4 seed, “Wow. It stinks.” Stinks is a pretty strong word. Coaches and fanbases usually feel they’ve been slighted by the selection committee.
But the selection and seeding processes are hardly scientific. There’s not a school in the field that can’t split hairs and claim it deserved a better seed. It just depends on the hairs they choose to split.
Could Kentucky have been a #3 seed? Yes. Should they have been a #3 seed? If you ask someone in Kentucky, you betcha. If you look at the above numbers without bias, you see that it’s not quite as clear cut as some Big Blue fans might make it out to be.
On the positive side of things, the way UK has been playing since February 26th — 6-0 with two wins over Florida, one over Vandy, one over Tennessee and one over Alabama — the Cats are peaking at the right time. The difference between a #3 and a #4 shouldn’t be that great.
(Sidenote — Don’t forget, while Kentucky’s SEC Tournament championship was impressive to the eye, the Cats collected wins over RPI #83 and RPI #80 before besting RPI #8 in the finals.)