A roller coaster of a season for a young Kentucky team is officially over.
A spokesman for UK confirmed late Monday night after the NCAA Tournament and WNIT postseason brackets were announced that the Cats did not receive an invitation.
So Kentucky’s season ends with a 15-17 overall record and a loss to Mississippi State in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
It is the first time in 14 years that the Cats ended their season with a losing record and without playing in any postseason tournament.
At the end of the regular season, Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell had expressed interest in some other kind of postseason tournament below the WNIT, but that did not come to fruition.
During that same news conference, Mitchell also seemed to lament overzealous scheduling that likely cost Kentucky a chance to at least play in the WNIT.
That postseason tournament’s rules state that a team must have a better than .500 record in the regular season to be eligible.
UK’s final strength of schedule ranking was No. 15, according to the NCAA.
“There’s no doubt that as we are trying to get our roster back to full strength and trying to recruit and add players that I must learn some lessons from this season and how it was scheduled,” said Mitchell, who had five newcomers this season after a mass exodus of players and recruits in 2016.
Kentucky faced an uphill climb in the SEC portion of the schedule, too, with two games each against defending national champion South Carolina and runner-up Mississippi State in the regular season.
“I can’t remember one more difficult,” Mitchell said of the league slate in which the Cats went 6-10, finishing in ninth place overall.
Mitchell said he scheduled too many difficult matchups for such a young team in the non-conference portion of the schedule.
“We would have been just fine if the non-conference had not been so tough and challenging,” he said. “There’s no one to blame for that but myself. I can promise you we will look at that closely and improve and learn.”
Losing just two seniors in Alyssa Rice and Jessica Hardin, Kentucky returns 89.6 percent of its scoring next season, including its top four scorers in Maci Morris, Taylor Murray, Dorie Harrison and Tatyana Wyatt.
The Cats also return 83.3 percent of their rebounding, 93.2 percent of their assists, 93.2 percent of their steals and 68.1 percent of their blocked shots from this season’s team.
They also get Stony Brook transfer Ogechi Anyagaligbo back from a season-ending knee injury that happened in the preseason, and Kentucky signed two players who could have an immediate impact next season.
While not in the postseason, Kentucky’s coaching staff will be on the road recruiting and making in-home visits to several recruiting targets.
• Even though the Cats won’t be playing in it, Kentucky will still be the host school for the NCAA Tournament Lexington Regional in Rupp Arena on March 23 and March 25. Louisville is the No. 1 seed in that region, announced during Selection Monday.