There are only so many depressing stats I can share about this Kentucky Basketball team, so here’s a question: does the fact that fellow blue bloods Duke and North Carolina are also struggling this season make any of this less awful?
On Monday, Duke lost to Pitt 79-73, the Blue Devils’ fourth loss of the season. Joe Lunardi now has Duke as the first team in his “Next Four Out” (so, the fifth team out) and warned that North Carolina and Michigan State are getting dangerously close to the bubble too.
“Duke has finally run out of mulligans, dropping out of the projected field for the first time since 1995,” Lunardi wrote.
Of course, Kentucky hasn’t been near the bubble in weeks. Last night’s loss to Georgia essentially slammed the door on an at-large bid, meaning it’s SEC Tournament or bust unless the Cats miraculously turn things around. No team that started the season 1-6 has ever received an at-large bid to the tournament. Ever. To even be considered for the NIT, the Cats will have to finish with a .500 record (although in a weird year, those rules could be relaxed). Depending on what happens with the South Carolina game that was postponed, that means going 9-3 the rest of the way against a schedule that includes four ranked teams. Not great, Bob!
You’ve probably seen this stat floating around: Monday marked the first time since 1961 that Kentucky, Duke, and North Carolina all failed to make the AP Top 25 Poll. John Calipari believes youth has a large role to play in his team’s struggles this year, and the Blue Devils and Tar Heels are similarly young. According to KenPom, Kentucky is No. 341 in the country in experience. Duke is No. 344, North Carolina No. 326. Contrast that with teams like Gonzaga, Baylor, and Iowa, which sit atop the AP Top 25 and are made up of juniors and seniors. Here’s another stat that proves experience matters this year:
Think player retention matters in college basketball?
45 of the 50 starters on the 10 teams ranked in the Top 10 of this week's AP Top 25 were all a part of their current programs last season.
Returning personnel > incoming personnel.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) January 20, 2021
The fact that John Calipari has to rebuild his roster each year is a post for a different day, but as we brace ourselves for what could be a very depressing March, is there any solace in the fact that Duke and North Carolina fans may have to do the same? If we can’t win it, at least they can’t either?