Kentucky feral cats have been a staple of March Madness for quite some time. No program in NCAA history has more NCAA tournament appearances than them.
But in 2021, Kentucky will not participate in the NCAA tournament.
Kentucky had one of their worst seasons in program history in 2020-21, as they recorded their lowest total of wins in nearly a century. Meanwhile, John Calipari failed to win double-digit games for the first time in his career.
Here’s a look at Kentucky’s season and how rare it has been for them to be this far from the NCAA tournament bubble.
When was the last time Kentucky missed the NCAA tournament?
Kentucky last missed the NCAA tournament in 2013. During the 2012-13 college basketball campaign, Kentucky posted a 21-12, 12-6 record in the SEC that year. That put them in a three-way tie for second in the SEC, but it wasn’t enough to get them to the NCAA tournament.
Part of Kentucky’s demise was linked to end-of-season struggles, as they had gone 5-5 in their last 10 games before March Madness. This included a 64-48 loss to Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament quarterfinals. As a result, Kentucky were unable to make the final group and instead accepted an invitation to NIT, where they lost in the first round to Robert Morris University.
Kentucky rarely misses the NCAA tournament. Since 1992, the team has qualified for the tournament 26 times on 29 occasions. They’ve appeared in the NCAA tournament 58 times, a record, eight more than the runner-up North Carolina Tar Heels.
Kentucky Basketball Record 2020-21
Kentucky’s record in the 2020-21 season was 9-16. Their nine wins are the team’s weakest since the 1926-27 season, when the team posted a 3-13 record in the Southern Conference, and their winning percentage of 0.36 is also the lowest since that time.
The Wildcats started the season 1-6, losing six straight games after an opening night win over Morehead State. They could never quite get on the right track after that.
Kentucky 2020-21 Season Timeline
Kentucky started the season 1-6, and things weren’t going well for the team. Amid difficult start, coach John Calipari slammed himself for setting up a ‘stupid’ schedule
“Look, we should have played some games ahead that we had a chance to win, four or five of them and then played four or five of the others,” Calipari said, by Adam Zagoria from Forbes. “Not eight difficult games and we still have Texas which is like 10th in the country.”
From there, Calipari tried to pull a lot of strings, but most didn’t work or turned on them. Early on, he suspended rookie Cam’Ron Fletcher for his outburst on the bench in a loss and blamed him for being immature. Fletcher would later return to the team, but Calipari drew attention to his decision to suspend Fletcher, who immediately apologized for the blast.
Calipari was sent off in Kentucky’s eighth game of the season against Mississippi State. While his ejection prompted his team to win this game and kick off a three-game winning streak, the impact didn’t last long. Kentucky have lost three in a row after their winning streak, which led Calipari to voice their frustration.
“I’m a little frustrated at this point because I can’t believe we’re not better, one as a team, and the individual players aren’t better,” Calipari said, by Nick Rousch or KentuckySportsRadio.com.
Beyond their inability to click, Kentucky suffered key injuries to Terrence Clarke and Keion Brooks, who combined to play in just 22 games. Both were double-digit goalscorers, so their presence was missed on the attacking side of the ball. The team also had two COVID cancellations and postponements, which put some bumps in their schedule.
The Wildcats were officially guaranteed to miss the NCAA tournament when they were knocked out of the SEC tournament in the first round. They lost to the No. 9 seed from Mississippi State, but should have won the SEC tournament to have any chance of turning into March Madness. Instead, they will look to next season and aim to improve on their poor 9-16 record.