By LARRY VAUGHT
Mike Bobinski, chairman of the Division I men’s basketball committee that set the NCAA Tournament field, said Sunday night that Kentucky, the defending NCAA champion, was one of the first teams left out of the tourney field along with Alabama, Iowa, Southern Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia.
“Kentucky was a team, because they had done some things during the course of the year, we analyzed very closely. They were in that last group of teams we evaluated,” said Bobinski. “When Nerlens (Noel) was playing, they were a team that showed some signs of making some progress.
“Even at that point they hadn’t done a lot of notable things. Since he went down, they really struggled away from home. You’ve seen the results. They lost four times I think away from home, double-digits to teams that are not in the field. The tournament is played away from home. It just felt like at the end of the day as we evaluated them they just weren’t there in terms of being one of those 37 best teams (to get an at-large bid). They have plenty of talent, well-coached, all of that. At the end of the day we didn’t get them in that group this year.”
Bobinski also said just winning one game in the SEC Tournament where UK lost to Vanderbilt in its first game likely would not have been enough to get UK into the tourney.
“Had they won a couple games. I wouldn’t say they would necessarily have had to win it (to make the NCAA),” Bobinski said. “They were on the road. They were at a neutral site at that point in time. They were on our radar throughout the week, leading into this week. Just winning the game, winning two games would have really given us a little bit more confidence about who they are as a team. Unfortunately that just didn’t play out.”
He said leaving the defending national champion out of the tourney was never a discussion point.
“Obviously that’s not a consideration of ours. I would say that clearly is an indication of the balance in the field this year. It just shows you you’ve got to earn it each and every year. It’s a challenge. That’s the competitive nature of college basketball,” Bobinski said.