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Kentucky NCAA Hopes End After Being Bounced From SEC Tourney

Kentucky’s season ended with a missed last-second shot within the SEC Tournament.

But issues started spiraling downward for the Wildcats lengthy earlier than Thursday’s disappointing 74-73 setback towards Mississippi State that sealed their destiny: No NCAA Tournament this 12 months.

When the Bulldogs’ Iverson Molinar made two free throws with seven seconds left, it assured the Wildcats (9-16) will miss the NCAA Tournament for the primary time since 2013 and simply the second in John Calipari’s 12-year tenure in Lexington.

With Duke withdrawing from the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament because of a optimistic COVID take a look at, will probably be the primary time since 1976 that each the Blue Devils and Kentucky is not going to be within the NCAAs.

Digesting the fact and enduring a dropping season in school basketball’s winningest program will make for a protracted offseason for the Wildcats.

I’ve by no means misplaced this many video games in my life in basketball consecutively like this,” graduate guard Davion Mintz mentioned. I do know different guys on this roster haven’t, both. But now you understand how it feels. You don’t wish to climb again into that gap. You don’t need that ache to come back again.

Kentucky dug that deep gap within the seasons first month, and it grew to become more durable to climb out of because the losses piled up.

The Wildcats had been in a position to string collectively a few three-game profitable streaks, however nonetheless completed the season seven video games below .500 within the pandemic-shortened season. Those spurts merely halted slides of six and 4 video games, respectively, which meant the blue-blood program wanted to mount its longest profitable steak of the season and win the SEC Tournament to increase the season.

We had been a few wins away from being a workforce, even with a nasty file, we had been proper there, Calipari mentioned of Kentucky’s NCAA prospects. But on the finish of the day, you’ve gotta win video games and also you’ve gotta be robust and also you’ve bought to play profitable basketball. … We had been by no means in a position to get totally engaged in that.

The final time Kentucky was out of the Big Dance was in 2013 after going 21-12 then was promptly bounced from the NIT by Robert Morris within the first spherical. Don’t search for the Wildcats in any postseason tourney this 12 months. It’s the packages first dropping marketing campaign since going 13-19 in 1988-89, one which approached historic proportions as Kentuckys worst because the 1926-27 squad started 1-Eight on the way in which to a 3-13 ending.

An opening-game rout of neighboring Morehead State which went on to win the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament for an automated NCAA bid was adopted by a six-game dropping streak that included a loss to rival Louisville. The Wildcats rebounded to win their first three SEC video games, solely to seesaw between a four-game skid and three-game profitable streak.

Developing chemistry took time for a workforce that returned simply sophomore ahead Keion Brooks Jr. and welcomed 10 new faces. Like many groups, the Wildcats had little observe or free time collectively due to pandemic restrictions.

Injuries that sidelined Brooks the primary 9 video games and Terrence Clarke for greater than two months till Thursday didn’t assist both, leaving the Wildcats weak within the put up.

One of the principle points for the Wildcats was placing up factors, as Kentucky ranked 200th in Division I in scoring. The offense started exhibiting some promise in mid-February, although not constant sufficient to get the wins wanted to get near .500 and benefit postseason consideration.

The inconsistent play that led to many ebbs and flows additionally raised questions in regards to the expertise stage of the consensus No. 1 ranked recruiting class, together with the Hall of Famers one-and-done mannequin. His teaching strategies and rotations additionally got here below fireplace.

It’s unclear which Wildcats freshmen will enter the NBA draft.

The most definitely candidate is freshman ahead Isaiah Jackson, who blossomed right into a formidable rim protector earlier than not too long ago revealing his offensive expertise. Hes projected as a lottery decide regardless of fouling out with simply seven factors and three rebounds in 19 minutes towards MSU.

Guard Brandon Boston Jr. battled offensive consistency all season however is rated as a first-round choice on a number of draft websites.

Mintz and Wake Forest switch Olivier Sarr are possible gone as seniors, although each may return if the NCAA grants an additional season of eligibility due to the pandemic that created pauses for a lot of packages.

Whatever occurs, Kentucky has work to do to bounce again from this low level in program historical past.

I’m disenchanted within the file, however not disenchanted in these youngsters, Calipari mentioned, being cautious to not look too far forward. We weren’t what we thought we might be in numerous spots, however we’ll handle that when this winds down.

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More AP faculty basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/College-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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