Jen Smith on Basketball

Upset of Gamecocks could help UK land in Rupp Arena for NCAA Tourney

Sure, there is much on the line when Kentucky faces South Carolina in the Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinals tonight at Veterans Memorial Arena.

But the game could end up having a significant impact beyond who wins the league tournament trophy this season.

If Kentucky were to upset South Carolina and advance to the Cats’ sixth SEC Tournament title game, it also likely would open the door for UK to be placed in the Rupp Arena Regional of the NCAA Tournament.

Currently, the NCAA Selection Committee has South Carolina as the tournament’s overall No. 2 seed behind Connecticut, which means the Gamecocks would be placed in the region closest to them (Lexington).

Based on the NCAA’s policies that govern the bracketing process, conference foe Kentucky would be shipped to a different region than South Carolina: Dallas, Bridgeport, Conn., or Sioux Falls, S.D.

“Each of the first four teams selected from a conference shall be placed in different regions if they are seeded on the first four lines,” the NCAA’s bracketing principles say, noting that teams from the same conference are not allowed to meet prior to the region final.

If UK were to knock off the Gamecocks (or if they were to fall in the championship game), it’s likely that Notre Dame would move up to the NCAA Tournament’s No. 2 overall seed and be placed at Rupp Arena. The Irish would have to avoid their own upsets, too, in this scenario.

Kentucky, riding an eight-game win streak, is now a lock to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament in Lexington the weekend of March 18-20. The late-season surge also has helped UK move up to a No. 3 seed in the tournament, according to ESPN Bracketologist Charlie Creme’s latest bracket.

That bracket, released Saturday morning, has UK as a No. 3 seed in the Dallas Regional. The top seed in that region is Baylor, followed by No. 2 seed Oregon State.