Mark Story

Two omens that correctly foretold no 2019 NCAA men’s basketball title for UK

Fast-break points after the madness turned to sadness:

21. The 2019 Kentucky men’s basketball season. Ended three victories short of the 2019 NCAA championship after Sunday’s 77-71 overtime loss to Auburn in the Midwest Region finals.

20. Omens that foretold UK’s fate. There are two qualities shared by all eight of Kentucky’s NCAA title teams that the 2018-19 Wildcats did not replicate.

19. The “Tennessee omen.” Among UK’s NCAA eight championship teams in 1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996, 1998 and 2012, you will find a combined zero losses to the Rocky Toppers.

The 2018-19 Wildcats lost two of three meetings to Rick Barnes’ Volunteers.

18. The “native Kentuckian omen.” On every one of UK’s eight NCAA championship teams, you will find at least one player from the commonwealth of Kentucky among UK’s top six scorers.

The 2018-19 Wildcats had no recruited, scholarship player from the state of Kentucky on their roster.

Darius Miller at UK.JPG
Ex-Mason County star Darius Miller was the sixth man on UK’s 2012 NCAA title team. Lexington Herald-Leader file photo

17. The “good omen” that didn’t hold up. Mark Stoops and Kentucky football went 10-3 in 2018. Before 2018-19, Kentucky men’s basketball had gone on to win the NCAA title in every prior school year — 1950-51 and 1977-78 — in which the UK football team had reached 10 wins.

This time, the basketball Cats could not parlay the positive pigskin karma into net cutting.

16. All-time victories. Kentucky gained on both No. 2 Kansas and No. 3 North Carolina in 2018-19 in the all-time men’s college basketball wins race.

15. Kentucky. Went 30-7 in 2018-19 and now has 2,293 all-time victories.

14. Kansas. Went 26-10 in 2018-19 and now has 2,274 all-time victories, falling from 15 wins behind UK before this season to 19 behind now.

13. North Carolina. Went 29-7 in 2018-19 and now has 2,261 all-time victories, falling from 31 wins behind UK before this season to 32 behind now.

12. Losing to lower seeds. In its past four NCAA Tournament appearances, Kentucky has lost three times (2016, 2018 and this year) to a lower-seeded team.

No. 4 seed Kentucky's 73-67 loss to No. 5 seed Indiana in the 2016 NCAA Tournament was the start of a stretch of three times in four seasons in which the Wildcats have been eliminated from the Big Dance by a lower-seeded team. Charles Bertram

11. Magic of No. 5 seeds. Auburn’s victory over Kentucky in the Midwest Region finals makes No. 5 seeds 4-0 in NCAA Tournament round-of-eight games vs. No. 2 seeds since the bracket expanded to at least 64 teams in 1985.

UK also lost in the round of eight as a No. 2 seed to No. 5 Michigan State, 94-88 in double overtime, in 2005.

10. UK’s “heartbreak round.” The Elite Eight has long been where Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament dreams go to die. Counting the loss to Auburn, UK is now 17-19 all-time in round-of-eight games.

9. Feeling the pain. Many of the most painful defeats in Wildcats hoops history — Jacksonville ending Dan Issel’s career; the original Dream Game defeat vs. Louisville; Laettner — have come in NCAA tourney region finals.

Dan Issel in UK days
Dan Issel's iconic University of Kentucky basketball career ended in a 106-100 loss to Jacksonville in the 1970 NCAA Tournament round of eight. Lexington Herald-Leader file photo

8. An “elite” run. Kentucky has now played in the NCAA Tournament round of eight seven times in 10 seasons of the John Calipari coaching era.

7. An even more “elite” run. From 1992 through 1999, under Rick Pitino and then Tubby Smith, UK played in the round of eight seven times in eight seasons.

6. Maci Morris. The ex-Bell County High School star ended her UK Hoops career with 1,692 points.

Maci Morri
In all of University of Kentucky basketball history, men's and women's, only four in-state products scored more points in a UK uniform than did ex-Bell County star Maci Morris (4). Alex Slitz

5. Rank among Kentucky products. In all of University of Kentucky basketball history, men’s and women’s, only four in-state players have scored more points in a UK Wildcats uniform than Morris.

4. Makayla Epps. The ex-Marion County star scored 1,790 points for Matthew Mitchell from 2013-2017.

3. Leslie Nichols. A high school standout at Henry Clay, the 6-foot forward scored 1,797 points for Terry Hall from 1982-86.

2. Adia Mathies. The former Iroquois High School star scored 2,014 points for Matthew Mitchell from 2009-2013.

A'dia Mathies
Former Iroquois High School star A'dia Mathies (1) is the second-leading all-time scorer in University of Kentucky women's basketball history.

1. Jack Givens. The ex-Bryan Station High School star scored 2,038 points for Joe B. Hall from 1974-78.


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Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a Herald-Leader sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.