UK Men's Basketball

Cakewalk for the Cats? Projections website says UK is most likely team in NCAA Tournament to make Final Four

Kentucky players looking forward to Sweet 16 in Catlanta

After win over Buffalo, Kentucky players talk about getting to South Regional semifinal Thursday night in Atlanta.
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After win over Buffalo, Kentucky players talk about getting to South Regional semifinal Thursday night in Atlanta.

The “Region of Death” standing between Kentucky and another trip to the Final Four is no more, and the Wildcats are now heavy favorites to end up in San Antonio a couple of weeks from now.

The latest South Region upset went down Sunday night, when Nevada came from 22 points down to defeat No. 2-seeded Cincinnati, 75-73, and earn a trip to the Sweet 16.

Earlier upsets knocked top-seeded Virginia, No. 3 seed Tennessee and No. 4 seed Arizona out of the tournament, and UK — the No. 5 team in the South — is now the top-ranked squad still alive in the region.

Immediately following Cincinnati’s loss, the analytics website FiveThirtyEight updated its projections to give the Cats a 64-percent chance of reaching the Final Four in San Antonio.

After No. 9 seed Kansas State defeated 16-seeded UMBC in their second-round matchup Sunday night, the Cats’ chances of reaching the Final Four were lowered to 57 percent. Still, that makes UK the heavy favorite in the South Region. K-State is next at 19 percent, and Nevada and Loyola are at 12 percent each.

It also makes UK the most likely team in the tournament to reach the Final Four, according to the FiveThirtyEight projections, which give Villanova a 53-percent chance to advance out of the East, Duke a a 49-percent chance to advance out of the Midwest and Gonzaga a 41-percent chance to advance out of the West.

Kentucky will play Kansas State on Thursday night in Atlanta. FiveThirtyEight gives UK a 71-percent chance to win that game.

The website gives Nevada a 51-percent chance to beat Loyola, which eliminated Tennessee, in the other Sweet 16 game in the South.

Kentucky now has an 11-percent chance of winning the national title, according to FiveThirtyEight’s projections. As of Sunday night, only two teams — Villanova at 22 percent and Duke at 18 percent — had a better shot.

UK is also given a 30 percent chance to make the title game, as of Sunday night. Only Villanova (31 percent) had a higher number in that category.

FiveThirtyEight uses a model based primarily on several computer rankings — including KenPom, Sagarin and BPI — for its projections.

Going into the tournament, UK had an 8-percent chance to make the Final Four and a 2-percent chance to win the national title, according to the FiveThirtyEight projections.

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