John Clay: With Madness down to 16 teams, math guru still doesn't like Cats' title chances

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistMarch 25, 2014 

Random notes:

■ Noted mathematician and presidential prognosticator Nate Silver, now with ESPN, gives Kentucky a 32 percent chance of beating Louisville on Friday night in the Midwest Regional semifinal.

Silver's FiveThirtyEight blog says UK has a 17 percent chance of reaching the Final Four, an 8 percent chance of making the final game and a 4 percent chance of winning the title.

When the tournament began, by the way, Silver's numbers gave UK a 1.9 percent chance of winning it all.

■ John Calipari has been dying to play a neutral court game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

■ Speaking of Calipari, since his arrival in Lexington, Kentucky is one of only four teams to reach the Sweet 16 four of the last five years. Florida, Michigan State and Ohio State are the other three. Florida is the only school to reach the Sweet 16 each of the last four tournaments.

■ How rare was the excellence displayed Sunday when Kentucky edged Wichita State? UK has played 355 basketball games in the last 10 seasons. Sunday was just the sixth game during that time frame in which both teams shot 50 percent — UK at 54.0; Wichita State at 55.1. That averages out to once in every 59 games, or 1.7 percent.

■ The SEC is currently 7-0 in the NCAA Tournament, which is more a statement about Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee — especially Tennessee — than the rest of the league. The conference may not be as bad as it looked during the season, but it is not as good as that 7-0 looks in the tournament.

■ Give Dick Vitale credit for picking Kentucky to upset Wichita State.

■ Give ESPN's Ryen Russillo credit for scheduling a vacation for this week after saying last week that Kentucky had "zero chance" of beating the Shockers. Russillo's time off was scheduled in advance.

■ Another Sunday fun fact: It was the first time Kentucky overcame a halftime deficit of at least six points to win since the 2012 team roared back from a 41-28 halftime hole to win 73-64 at Mississippi State.

■ When the Kansas-Eastern Kentucky game ran late on Friday in St. Louis, little time was left for Scottrade Center personnel to clear the arena and prepare for the evening session. No matter. Despite the fact that the doors had just opened and very few fans were in the stands, the Wichita State-Cal Poly game began as scheduled because it's all for television.

■ The NCAA requires that you use cups with an NCAA logo while sitting at courtside. One media member brought a clear cup with pretzels out to press row. He was instructed to take the pretzels out of the clear cup and put them in an NCAA logo cup.

■ Congrats to Darrell Griffith, "Dr. Dunkenstein" himself, on his College Basketball Hall of Fame selection.

■ Is it pure coincidence that the NFL has passed a rule outlawing dunking the goal posts after touchdowns just after Kansas State basketball was called for a technical foul when a walk-on dunked during warmups?

■ K-State's unusual technical happened Friday night. On Sunday afternoon, the UK band was imploring Wichita State to dunk during its pre-game layup line. No luck.

■ If Louisville has a chance to win Friday, Russ Smith cannot make seven turnovers as he did in the Cards' Saturday win over Saint Louis in Orlando.

■ Surprised that former UK walk-on Steve Masiello, who nearly coached Manhattan to an upset of Louisville last week, would take the South Florida job. Wonder if Masiello talked to former Transy coach Lee Rose, who took Charlotte and Purdue to Final Fours but could not get the Bulls in the NCAA Tournament during his six years in Tampa?

■ Another Sunday fun fact: Kentucky did not commit a turnover the game's final 8:30 and scored on 12 of its final 14 possessions, including its last six.

■ This from ESPN stats and information: There have been six overtime games in this NCAA Tournament, just one shy of the record seven set in 1995 and equaled in 1997.

■ I'm betting "tweak" will be included in the title of Calipari's next book.

John Clay: 859-231-3226.E-mail: jclay@herald-leader.com. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com.Twitter: @johnclayiv.

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