Mark Story: If today were Selection Sunday, UK (men) might not be in NCAAs

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJanuary 14, 2013 

Kentucky Wildcats forward Alex Poythress (22) put up a shot over Texas A&M Aggies guard Elston Turner (31) as Texas A&M defeated Kentucky 83-71 on Saturday January 12, 2013 in Lexington, KY. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff

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  • Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday
    Where: LP Field in Nashville
    TV: ESPNews
    Radio: WBUL-FM 98.1; WLAP-AM 630; WWRW-FM 105.5

Fast-break points from the January slump:

21. Kentucky in bubble trouble? If today were Selection Sunday, the men's basketball Wildcats (10-5) have very little in their profile — other than their name — to suggest they deserve an invitation to the NCAA Tournament.

20. One top 100 win. At this point, Kentucky has no victories over teams ranked in the Top 75 in the RPI (source: realtimerpi.com). UK has only one win, No. 91 Maryland, over teams in the top 150.

19. Good losses. UK's strongest argument for NCAA tourney inclusion presently are close defeats to Duke (No. 1 in RPI) on a neutral floor and Louisville (No. 8 in RPI) on the road.

18. SEC offers little help. Another reason to worry about Kentucky's NCAA tourney chances is that the Southeastern Conference is hardly a target-rich environment for potential "quality wins." The SEC has five teams currently ranked below 150 in the RPI. It has only two teams, No. 9 Florida and No. 23 Missouri, in the top 40.

17. Plenty of potential "bad" road losses. Given how shaky UK was in escaping with a two-point win at struggling Vanderbilt (No. 156 in RPI), how confident are you the Cats can win at Auburn (No. 190), at Alabama (No. 73), at Mississippi (No. 47), at Texas A&M (No. 41), at Florida (No. 9), at Tennessee (No. 99), at Arkansas (No. 76) or even at Georgia (No. 214)?

16. Bottom line for UK. If Kentucky is to build an NCAA Tournament-worthy resume, says here the Cats need to win at least half their remaining SEC road games and all eight of their Rupp Arena matchups, including Missouri (Feb. 23) and Florida (March 9).

15. Revenge of the son. Elston Turner, the Texas A&M swingman who torched Kentucky for 40 points in leading the Aggies to an 83-71 upset Saturday in Rupp Arena, is the son of the former Mississippi standout of the same name.

14. Elston Turner the younger. The 6-foot-5 senior needed only 19 shots (making 14) to score almost as many points in one game in Rupp Arena as his dad — a very good player at Ole Miss from 1977-81 — scored in four.

13. Elston Turner the older. Turner the father scored 47 total points in Rupp Arena (shot 19-of-40) while losing to Kentucky four times.

12. A father's advice. After his big game Saturday, Elston Turner said his dad, now an assistant coach with the Phoenix Suns, had talked to him about playing in Rupp. "He just said it would be loud and there would be about 20,000 people there," the A&M standout said.

11. Rupp ovation for Turner. When Texas A&M Coach Billy Kennedy pulled Turner in the last seconds Saturday, what was left of a Rupp Arena crowd of 24,193 gave the swingman a nice hand. It was a classy moment.

10. Rupp's 40-point club. A&M's Turner joined Navy's David Robinson (45 in 1987), LSU's Chris Jackson (41 in 1990) and Kentucky's Derrick Miller (40 in 1990) as the only men's college players to have a 40-point game in Rupp Arena.

9. An A&M correction. Contrary to a note I was responsible for in Sunday's paper, Texas A&M is now 4-1 in Rupp Arena. The Aggies beat UK Saturday, and defeated Pennsylvania and Louisville in the 2007 NCAA Tournament. However, A&M went 1-1 in the 1978-79 season's UKIT, beating Kentucky in the semifinals but losing to Illinois in the finals.

8. Nerlens Noel. Overshadowed though it was, the Kentucky freshmen's all-around performance against Texas A&M — 15 points; 11 rebounds; 7 blocked shots; 6 assists; four steals — was one of the best I've ever seen.

7. 2013 NBA mock draft. The website nbadraft.net now has UK freshmen Noel going No. 4, Willie Cauley Stein No. 13 and Archie Goodwin No. 15 — but no longer has Alex Poythress listed in the top two rounds.

6. Rajon Rondo. The ex-Kentucky and current Boston Celtics point guard has a new ESPN SportsCenter commercial. It is a hoot — and it even includes a cameo by the UK mascot.

5. UK women's hoops. With Kentucky now ranked No. 5 in the country in the AP poll, you might want to catch a glimpse of Matthew Mitchell's crew soon. The Wildcats play four of their next five games in Memorial Coliseum, but then play five of their ensuing six on the road.

4. One Cat left. With Myron Pryor on New England's physically unable to perform list, the only ex-Kentucky Wildcat still alive in the NFL playoffs is Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Corey Peters.

3. Just say no to All-Harbaugh Super Bowl. If Baltimore and San Francisco win in this week's NFL playoffs, it means brothers John Harbaugh (Ravens) and Jim Harbaugh (49ers) will be the Super Bowl head-coaching matchup. Can you imagine the hype? I can, which is why I hope at least one of the Harbaugh boys loses in the conference finals.

2. Golden Globes. Argo is a wonderful movie, but it is not better than Lincoln.

1. It's all coming up Cardinals red. Tom Jurich gets Louisville into the ACC. Charlie Strong says no to Tennessee, then his U of L football team beats Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Rick Pitino's men's hoops Cardinals have risen to No. 1 in the AP poll. The Louisville karma is so good, Cardinals fan Jennifer Lawrence took home a Golden Globe Sunday for best actress in a comedy/musical for her (strong) performance in Silver Linings Playbook.

Sometimes, it's just your year.

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Email: mstory@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @markcstory. Blog: markstory.bloginky.com

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