As Kentucky faces 'gauntlet,' NCAA Selection Committee will be watching

Jerry Tipton, Lexington Herald-Leader on

Published in Basketball

Kentucky has made a favorable impression upon the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. And that committee is aware of the challenges UK faces in the regular season's final seven games.

"Kentucky certainly has had a good year so far with a young team again," Committee chair Bruce Rasmussen said on an NCAA teleconference Wednesday. "They have a gauntlet that they're going to be facing here in the next few weeks.

"So the committee will have a lot of discussion not only this week about Kentucky, but certainly will in March."

Of Kentucky's final seven opponents, six had a Ratings Percentage Index in the top 50 as of Wednesday morning: No. 5 Auburn, No. 29 Missouri, No. 30 Texas A&M, No. 36 Arkansas, No. 43 Alabama and No. 49 Florida. The outlier is Ole Miss at No. 98.

Kentucky is 3-5 this season against teams in the top 50 of the RPI.

Rasmussen, the athletic director at Creighton, downplayed the notion that momentum or lack thereof going into the NCAA Tournament can be important in evaluating Kentucky or any team.

"We look at every game as important as any other game," he said. "So it doesn't make any difference what time of year you play these games. They're all looked at with the same degree of importance. We look at the entire body of work."

A current debate in the Southeastern Conference revolves around the league's competitive games. Twelve of the 14 teams have four or more losses in league play. Do the losses hurt an individual team's postseason profile or reflect quality depth in SEC basketball?

"I believe it reflects a very good league," Rasmussen said. "Again, the committee will have a lot of discussion about the depth and the quality of the depth in the SEC. And we certainly understand what a lot of those teams face in terms of ... the strength of conference teams."

Rasmussen's comments echoed the reaction of SEC coaches on a Monday teleconference.

"We're all beating each other up," Florida coach Mike White said. "But we're also preparing each other. The beatings -- the exposing, if you will -- will only lead to development ... . You can learn a lot about yourself after a win. But I think you can learn more after a loss."

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After Tennessee beat Kentucky on Tuesday, coach Rick Barnes spoke of a bonanza for the SEC on Selection Sunday.

"If it keeps going like it is right now, this (league) should have nine teams in the NCAA Tournament ...," he said. "This is as competitive as any league I've ever coached in."

The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee is in Indianapolis this week. The committee is preparing for Sunday's announcement of the top 16 seeds as of Feb. 11. The announcement is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on CBS-27.

To show how fluid the situation can be, Rasmussen spoke of the many games to be played before Sunday: 87 on Wednesday and Thursday, then another 145 on Saturday.

Committee members are scheduled to leave Indianapolis on Thursday, but meet via teleconference Saturday night and Sunday morning, Rasmussen said.

"To make sure we're comfortable with what will be announced on CBS," he said.

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