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Would Final Four or first-round NCAA loss be more surprising for UK?

NIck Richards (Vicky Graff Photo)


What would be more surprising — Kentucky reaching the Final Four or Kentucky losing in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament?

That’s the question I recently asked Blue Ribbon College Basketball publisher Chris Dortch. He never hesitated with his answer.

“A first-round loss would surprise me,” Dortch said.

Why? Kentucky did lose to Evansville and Utah, two teams likely not as good as UK’s first-round NCAA opponent and the Cats have also had a ton of close games this year.

“In those early games you will be against a team generally speaking that will be outmatched physically in the post,” Dortch said. “If you get a team that has a post player who can play, then that is one who you put money on for  an upset special in the first round.

“If not, I think Kentucky will dominate with size and guard play. I like the way Kentucky defends when it is at its best and I like the blend inside and then you have three guards who are interchangeable.

“So in a first-round matchup, I just think Nick Richards as a rim protector and then an offensive force to go with those guards will just be too much unless a team happens to have a really good post player and that’s usually not the case with first-round matchups.”



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  1. I would not be surprised with any outcome; first round loss or win it all.
    It depends on the seeding, which team shows up, and whether or not the refs call it the same on both ends.

  2. I saw an early seeding by Larnardi and he has UK a 3 seed in the Mid West going against Bowling Green a 14 seed in St. Louis as of 2/28/20. LSU, Louisville, Ohio State, Michigan St. and Indiana are also shown in that region as well. Hard road if this is how it turns out for the Cats.

    1. They always like to put Louisville and a couple of teams we have played during the year in our Region. But I have never seen them put Duke and NC in the same Region.

      1. And the NCAA never will do that with Duke and North Carolina in part because they are in same conference and UK/Louisville are not

      2. Well if this holds, UK has already beaten three teams in this region that they beat in the regular season, and two, if you count Indiana, are heated rivals, especially Louisville. Nothing fair about it IMO. Hard to beat a team twice in the same year. Then he has Duke a No. 2 seed. Really? They don’t deserve that at all.

        1. Look at Duke’s projected path forward in the West.

  3. Is Kentucky more likely to make a run to the Final Four or lose in the first round of the 2020 NCAA Tournament? Of course the answer to this question is unknown, and either outcome is possible. In addition, analysis of these alternative potential outcomes is dependent upon the seeding that the NCAA provides Kentucky on Selection Sunday which is two weeks away.

    Kentucky currently has an ANE of 0.211 ppp which places it at #26 in Pomeroy, and a #26 team has earned a 7 seed, and teams with ANE ranking in the 17 to 32 range should be regarded a theoretical second round exit type teams in the NCAA tournament.

    Over the last 10 seasons, there have been 160 teams with ANE values that rank between #17 and #32, and of these there have been eight teams in seven of the ten seasons who did not receive an at large bid to the NCAA tournament. Those eight teams each competed in the NIT, and six of them won the NIT and two of them ended their seasons as the NIT Runner Up

    The other 152 teams ranked in the #17 to #32 range all participated in the NCAA tournament. 53 of them lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament, and another 55 lost in the second round. Forty-four of these teams advanced to the Sweet 16 (28.9%), and of these 13 advanced into the Elite 8. Seven teams advanced to the Final Four, and none of them advanced into the Championship game.

    This history sheds some light on the question posed. A team ranked between #17 and #32 ANE is more likely to lose in the first round of the tournament than advance to the final four.

    These 7 teams defied the odds and advanced to the final four over the last decade. While this is no more than anecdotal evidence, it gives fans eternal hope that such a run is always possible for the fans’ team despite a season’s body of work that places the team in the 17 to 32 ranking range.

    Here are the eight examples.

    • 2019: No team advanced to Final Four
    • 2018: Loyola Chicago finished the season with a #31 ANE ranking and entered the tournament as an 11 seed despite having earned an 8 seed.
    • 2017: South Carolina finished the season with a #24 ANE ranking and entered the tournament as a 7 seed despite having earned a 6 seed.
    • 2016: Syracuse finished the season with a #27 ANE ranking and entered the tournament as a 10 seed despite having earned a 7 seed.
    • 2015: Providence finished the season with a #27 ANE ranking and entered the tournament as a 6 seed despite having earned a 7 seed.
    • 2014: No team advanced to the Final Four.
    • 2013: Wichita State finished the season with a #17 ANE ranking and entered the tournament as a 9 seed despite having earned a 5 seed.
    • 2012: Louisville finished the season with a #17 ANE ranking and entered the tournament as a 4 seed despite having earned a 5 seed.
    • 2011: No team advanced to the Final Four
    • 2010: Michigan finished the season with a #20 ANE ranking and entered the tournament as a 5 seed, which was equal to the 5 seed it had earned.

    Four of these teams started the tournament with a poorer seed than their season long performance levels should have justified, and two of them started the tournament with a better seed than their body of work would justify. Michigan started the tournament with the same seed that its body of work would justify. Over the course of these 10 seasons, 67 teams received better seeds from the NCAA Selection Committee than earned and 59 teams received poorer seeds. 26 teams earned the same seed as earned by their body of work, and of course, 8 teams did not receive bids at all. Therefore, the seed a team receives on Selection Sunday does not seem to improve a team’s likelihood of making such a run.

    A team with an ANE ranking between #17 and #32 has about a 1 in 3 chance of losing in the first round and about a 1 in 20 chance of advancing to the Final Four.

    About 71% of all teams in this ranking range lose during the first week end, and less than 9% of teams advance to the Elite 8.

    Perhaps this Kentucky team can catch fire and defy the odds to make a run to the Final Four despite its complete body of work for the 2019-20 season. We will all learn the answer within the next month.

  4. Those are the numbers Prof. What do you think? As a fan not a statistician. Just Wondering

    1. Professor your last paragraph covers all your bases don’t it? So you have just scientifically proven, I guess, that if UK wins it all now with an ANE of 26 they just got lucky, right? All this mumbo jumbo rocket science is impressive it is, but it don’t do much for the good old average fan who just believes UK can win this thing called the NCAA Tournament. This is KENTUCKY we are talking about after all. You really sort of poured water on our fire when it really wasn’t necessary. Does your ANE analysis take into account the actual players and their year end skills, and trends, coaches, game plans, matchups, health of the players at game time, easy paths or difficult paths forward based on region and seedings, good calls and bad calls, and just plain grit, and will to win? All I can say is I hope your analysis proves wrong, do you? Several on this site didn’t think UK would win the SEC regular season championship either back several months ago. How did that play out? Yeah, I agree with UKFMLY and would like to know, what say you? Can UK make a run? Many talking heads now are saying they can. What does the fan in you say?

      1. Perhaps you might be happier if you ignored my silliness.

        1. Professor, You didn’t answer my above questions. Answer me this, how in the world did UK already post victories over three teams with a much better ANE rank? Oh I bet you say they were upsets, right. Three of them were in the top ANE 15. Also, are all these basketball talking heads who have been around college basketball for generations, and see UK as a dangerous team now, be all wrong? UK being a top 10 team in several national polls means nothing? How about just winning games, and the overall won/loss record. Also Professor, is the thought of UK having to face three teams in the same region they have already defeated during the regular season be an easy path forward if that happens? I guess UK’s chances are slim to none based on your ANE analysis,I get that, but don’t believe it. Now how about your own personal feelings? Feel like sharing them with us?

          1. Pup this is easy to understand. Professor has a system he thinks works and volunteers to share his analysis/insights with us. He never said it was rocket science or 100 percent accurate. If it upsets your or infuriates you, easy solution — just don’t read it and check the other stories on the website.

          2. I mean no disrespect to the Professor’s system Larry V. This is not personal to me. Just sticking up for my team and Coach, whom he has been a little hard on of late if you have read some of his other comments. I read all the articles on VV’s by the way. I look at this site as entertainment, a place to agree or disagree. It does get a little tense at times. Glad you are the mediator.

          3. Just don’t want things to get out of control like they did a month or so again. Thanks Pup for your loyalty

  5. I have said many times on these pages that I think this is a round 2 team that is more likely to lose in the first round than reach the Sweet 16. I have said many times that I believe the Sweet 16 is this team’s ceiling. The post above gives a basis for my opinion, just as I always strive to provide.

    If people don’t agree, so be it. We will all learn how this season ends for the Cats soon enough.

    I have just examined how the top 30 teams have been playing their last 5 and last 10 games relative to their season long bodies of work, and UK has been playing better over the last 5 and 10 games, but on the 10 game side, there are 20 other teams that have had a better last 10 games than UK, and on the 5 game side, there are 18 teams that have had a better last 5 games than UK.

  6. I, for one, appreciate the Professor’s analysis and I also appreciate Pup’s true blue blood. As the 70’s musician Dave Mason once famously said in one of his songs , “There ain’t no good guys, there ain’t no bad guys, it’s just you and me, and we just disagree.”

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