UK Men's Basketball

UK blue figures prominently in colorful history of No. 5 seeds in NCAA tourney

Will Jarred Vanderbilt play in NCAA Tournament?

Kentucky freshman Jarred Vanderbilt, who missed the SEC Tournament with an ankle injury, talks about his chances of playing in the NCAA Tournament this weekend in Boise.
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Kentucky freshman Jarred Vanderbilt, who missed the SEC Tournament with an ankle injury, talks about his chances of playing in the NCAA Tournament this weekend in Boise.

Being a No. 5 seed is low-rent for mighty Kentucky. Here are five takeaways on how five-seed teams have fared in past NCAA tournaments.

1. In the 39 previous years of seeding, no five-seed has ever won the national championship. Butler came the closest, losing to Duke in the 2010 national championship game.

2. Davidson, a 12-seed, is a trendy pick to upset Kentucky in Thursday’s first-round game. Such an outcome would fit a pattern. At least one 12-seed has beaten a five-seed in all but seven of the previous 39 years that the NCAA Selection Committee seeded the teams.

3. The first 12-seed to beat a five-seed was none other than . . . Kentucky. In 1985, UK beat five-seed Washington in Salt Lake City to begin a feel-good run to the Sweet 16 in Joe B. Hall’s final season as coach.

4. Arguably the most notable recent game involving a No. 12 seed that advanced came in 2010. After beating five-seed Temple and four-seed Wisconsin, 12-seed Cornell faced No. 1 seed Kentucky in a Sweet 16 game in Syracuse.

This was the game that had a storyline about how smart the Cornell players were, and by inference, how this contrasted with UK players. This led DeMarcus Cousins to famously point out, “It’s a basketball game, not a spelling bee.” UK won 62-45.

5. The 12-seeds are not always the little mid-major engine that could. Past 12-seeds that won first-round games include Arizona, Villanova, Oregon, Missouri, Florida State, Arkansas, Maryland and, of course, Kentucky.

‘5.7 percent’

According to human slide rule Ken Pomeroy, Kentucky has a 5.7 percent chance of advancing to the Final Four.

The team with the best chance of playing in the Final Four? Villanova at 43.7 percent.

Other teams than UK with a similar chance to get to the Final Four include Wichita State (5.9 percent), Clemson (6.5 percent) and Arizona (5.3 percent).

“Part of that is a function of their draw,” Pomeroy said of UK’s 5.7 percent chance. “Having to get by Arizona and Virginia.”

‘Day to day’

Jarred Vanderbilt all but confirmed he will not play in Boise.

“As a competitor, I want to play,” he said. “I want to go out there and help my team. But I know (UK Coach John Calipari) is not going to let me play if I’m not 100 percent.”

When will Vanderbilt play again?

“I mean, who knows?” he said. “Right now, it’s day to day. I can’t really tell it right now. Hopefully, if we get past this weekend, then we’ll decide.”

Vanderbilt said “a freak accident in practice” injured his lower left leg. “I came down wrong,” he said.

Divided loyalties?

Ohio State Coach Chris Holtmann, who grew up in Jessamine County, said his parents made the trip to Boise with the team. It was a bonus that they can watch Kentucky as well as the Buckeyes.

“My mom will put the headphones on and listen to the (UK) game while she’s watching the Buckeyes.”

When asked which game his mother paid closer attention to, Holtmann smiled and said, “hopefully the Buckeyes.”

Basketball in Boise

Boise has been a host city in eight previous NCAA Tournaments, the most recent in 2009. Perhaps the three most famous games played here were:

1. Tyus Edney’s coast-to-coast dash to make the winning layup at the buzzer for UCLA in 1995. That shot enabled the Bruins to beat Missouri in the second round and continue a postseason run that ended with the national championship.

2. Then-Indiana Coach Bob Knight shouted obscenities while admonishing the moderator at a postgame news conference after the Hoosiers lost to Missouri in that same 1995 sub-regional. The moderator had mistakenly announced that Knight would not participate in the news conference.

3. Led by All-American Ralph Sampson, West Region No. 1 seed Virginia beat Washington State 54-49 in 1983.

Idaho debut

Kentucky has never played in Idaho. The closest UK-Potato State connection are three games in Lexington: a 70-55 victory over Boise State in 2013-14 and two victories over Idaho (65-35 in 1946-47 and 91-35 in 1955-56).

10th anniversary

This is the 10th anniversary of Davidson’s Cinderella run to the region finals in 2008. Steph Curry led the way, and previewed his future NBA super stardom.

“It’s hard to believe it was 10 years ago,” Davidson Coach Bob McKillop told “And maybe that speaks about what it has meant to Davidson. It still is a very vibrant, very vivid, exhilarating memory that touches everyone in the Davidson community. Not just basketball players at that time, but basketball players from every generation, alums from every generation, community people from every generation.”

Until 2008, Davidson had not won an NCAA Tournament game in 39 years. Davidson has not won an NCAA Tournament game since then.

McKillop suggested that Davidson did something in 2008 that is perhaps more important than merely winning games.

“We felt as if we had emptied our tank,” he said. “We had this tremendous sense of peace. You’re fortunate to have that for one game. We had it for those two successive weekends.”

Jerry Tipton: 859-231-3227, @JerryTipton

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