NASHVILLE — No matter what happens in the Southeastern Conference Tournament, Kentucky is a virtual lock to be the overall No. 1 seed in this year's NCAA Tournament, the chair of the Selection Committee said Wednesday.
"Given the circumstances, as of today, that certainly is a good read on the situation," said Scott Barnes, who added that he could not remember so clear-cut an overall No. 1 seed.
However, the path to a national championship contains obstacles.
Barring an upset here, the Cats will probably have to deal with playing Sunday in the SEC Tournament finals and then open NCAA Tournament play Thursday in Louisville.
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Barnes, the athletic director at Utah State, said that such a quick turnaround is not a factor the Selection Committee considers in making decisions on bids, seeds and placement.
NCAA spokesman David Worlock said that he was unaware of any specific reason games in Louisville will be played on Thursday and Saturday rather than Friday and Sunday.
"We determine that years in advance, when the sites are announced," he wrote in an email. "No reason for Louisville being a Thursday/Saturday. It may have been what they bid, or it could have been random."
Kentucky might have to beat Big Ten champion Wisconsin to get to the Final Four.
The committee no longer uses what was called the "S curve," a formula in which the committee tried to pair the best No. 1 seed with the relatively worst No. 2 seed, Barnes said.
Keeping teams close to home is a "key component" in the committee's work, he said.
That seemed to indicate that if the committee did not elevate Wisconsin to a No. 1 seed, the Badgers would be a No. 2 seed in Cleveland, where Kentucky is expected to be the No. 1 seed.
ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi said Tuesday that it was "extremely likely" that Kentucky and Wisconsin would be two of the teams in Cleveland.
"Not because of anything other than geographic procedure that the committee has established," he said. "If Wisconsin moves up to the one line, which can obviously happen here, then we are talking about a different story. But if Kentucky is a one and Wisconsin is a two, then that's how it's going to be, because that's the way the rules are written now. It's not my rule. It's not your rule, and it's certainly not Wisconsin's rule. But that's simply the precedent that's been established, and if we know one thing about the committee, they do tend to follow their own rules pretty well."
Madison, Wis., is 489 miles from Cleveland. Lexington is 330 miles from Cleveland.
Pat Dooley, a columnist with the Gainesville Sun, tweeted that the ratio of UK fans versus fans of other SEC schools in Nashville on Wednesday night was already roughly the same as UK championships versus titles won by the other 13 schools.
Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings shrugged.
"The last time I felt real inferior in terms of homecourt advantage at the SEC Tournament was 2012 down in New Orleans," he said. "And we won that day."Vandy beat No. 1 Kentucky 71-64 in the SEC Tournament finals.
"If we can win that day, if somebody has a few more fans than us, that's OK," Stallings said. "We'll be all right."
Absent and present
Florida and Alabama chose not to practice in Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday afternoon. Florida Coach Billy Donovan is not a fan of open practices. Media members, but not the public, could watch workouts by Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Ole Miss.
Dooley said he's staying for the entire tournament regardless of Florida winning or losing Thursday. His editors want him on site to report on Kentucky's unfolding season of historic achievement.
Tennessee Coach Donnie Tyndall said he will not wear the pale orange sport coat he wore in regular-season games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
"I had too many negative comments about my physique in that jacket," he said. "I'm going to go with a regular suit."
Tyndall, who is built along the lines of cartoon character Spongebob Squarepants, made a fashion statement to his players earlier in the week.
"I don't know about you guys," he said he told the players. "But I'm bringing four suits (to the SEC Tournament)."
The message? "Let your team know we expect to win and we're confident we can win," he said. "I don't mean this arrogantly. But I think you have to put this in their minds."