NASHVILLE — If an NCAA Tournament bid is not extended Sunday, Kentucky would be obligated to accept an invitation to play in the National Invitation Tournament.
C.M. Newton, a former UK director of athletics and a member of the NIT Selection Committee, said that schools must decide how they feel about playing in the NIT long before Selection Sunday.
"The rule is, if they turn down (the NIT), they turn it down at the start of the year," Newton said Saturday.
All Southeastern Conference teams have agreed to play in the NIT if they get passed over by the NCAA Tournament, Newton said before adding, "Quite frankly, I don't know of any school" that has declared it will not play in the NIT.
When asked if teams were obligated to play in the NIT, Newton said, "Yeah. Unless they let you know (otherwise at the beginning of the season)."
A 64-48 loss to Vanderbilt on Friday in the SEC Tournament made playing in the NIT a greater possibility for Kentucky, which won the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
Selection Sunday begins with the NCAA selecting 37 at-large teams to fill out its 68-team field. Later Sunday evening, the NIT will select its 32-team field. The NIT also had automatic qualifiers, which are regular-season league champions that do not win their conference tournaments.
"Usually mid-majors," Newton said. As of Saturday afternoon, the NIT had 10 automatic qualifiers.
Kentucky (21-11) would hold great appeal for the NIT.
"No question," Newton said. "There are a bunch of attractive teams. BYU. Kentucky. Iowa. Just on and on."
Newton described UK as "a young basketball team" well coached by John Calipari.
"Losing the big kid (Nerlens Noel) really affected them, without question," he said.
Since Noel tore an anterior cruciate ligament, Kentucky has lost every game away from home, all by double-digit margins.
When asked about the NIT after the loss to Vanderbilt, point guard Ryan Harrow said, "I never thought of the NIT. I always thought of the (NCAA) tournament."
Cats returning to Barclays Center
Kentucky will return to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., next season to play Providence.
The Cats will play the Friars on Dec. 1, 2013, which will mark the schools' first meeting since 1976.
Providence (17-14) finished 10th in the Big East Conference this season.
The teams' only previous meeting took place in the National Invitation Tournament, a game won 79-78 by Kentucky on March 18, 1976, in Madison Square Garden.
Ticket information will be announced at a later date.
Kentucky played Maryland in the Barclays Center to open this season, winning 72-69.
The New York Post reported Saturday that Kentucky and Maryland have agreed to multi-year deals to play games annually in the Barclays Center.
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227 Twitter: @JerryTipton Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com