The long wait is almost over for Kentucky.
After sitting through a week of watching men’s conference tournaments play out and the other selection show, the UK women will find out Monday night if they will get to play again this season in Memorial Coliseum and who’s up next.
The most recent ESPN Bracketology has the Cats making their eighth straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 4 seed in the Lexington Regional and playing host to the first two rounds.
Charlie Creme’s ESPN bracket has UK taking on Southern Conference winner Chattanooga and then facing the winner of No. 5 seed DePaul and No. 12 seed Western Kentucky.
No. 19 Kentucky (21-10) finished fourth in the Southeastern Conference and was a tournament semifinalist last week. The most recent RPI has them No. 14 overall with a strength of schedule rated third in the nation behind only Notre Dame and Connecticut.
In UK’s final 10 games — something the selection committee takes into consideration — it went 6-4 with three of those losses coming to fourth-ranked South Carolina and another at No. 25 Missouri.
In that span, Kentucky also earned a win over No. 7 Mississippi State.
The Cats are 11-9 versus top-100 teams, according to the NCAA report, including 5-0 against teams ranked Nos. 51-100. UK is 4-8 against teams ranked Nos. 1-25 in the RPI.
There was some discussion during the conference tournaments last week that UK had a chance to perhaps move up to the No. 3 seed line, but on a conference call with NCAA women’s basketball gurus, analyst Andy Landers said he believed “that those top 12 seeds are locked in.”
Kentucky has been a surprise before, earning a No. 2 seed in 2015, but that seems unlikely this go-around, especially with the NCAA Selection Committee regularly releasing its top 16 seeds during the regular season.
Kentucky has been either a second or third seed in each of the past five seasons.
The Cats, who will host a private event to watch the ESPN Selection Show on Monday starting at 7 p.m., were eager for an opportunity to play a couple more games at home and then perhaps a chance to move on to their home away from home in Rupp Arena for the next two rounds.
“Just having that home-field advantage, especially with our support system we have at home and having our fans there to cheer us on, gives us that energy and that extra boost when we’re in these big games,” junior forward Alyssa Rice said after the SEC Tournament.
If the ESPN bracket holds, UK would be in the Rupp Regional with top-seeded Notre Dame, No. 2 seed Maryland and No. 3 seed Washington.
The only thing that could derail UK’s ability to stay on a home track like it did last March would be the Selection Committee opting to put SEC nemesis South Carolina in Lexington, but Creme didn’t think that was likely.
“UConn, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Baylor, in that order,” he said of the top seeds this week on the call. “So, I think that if you’re being honest and doing this with the most integrity possible, Notre Dame has got to go to Lexington. So I don’t think we’re going to see South Carolina in Lexington.”
Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell sounded optimistic that guards Taylor Murray (whiplash/neck sprain) and Jaida Roper (head injury) would be ready for the start of the NCAA Tournament this week.
“Taylor is progressing every day, but has yet to resume practice activities,” he told the Herald-Leader on Sunday night. “Jaida is participating in non-contact activities and is progressing nicely.”
Of both guards, he added: “We are hoping both are back at full speed for the first round of the tournament.”
Women’s NCAA Selection Show
7 p.m. (ESPN)