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From the Pressbox: Considering why UK missed the tournament

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"They not only didn't handle it, they completely botched it. They made it an easy choice for the committee. And it's a shame because the tournament is always better when Kentucky is involved."

That's the assessment of Sporting News college basketball writer Mike DeCourcy of how Kentucky popped its own bubble last Friday night against Vanderbilt. He said it was not asking that much for the Wildcats to handle the Southeastern Conference's 10th-seeded team and if they couldn't do it, they have nothing to complain about (John Calipari said as much himself on Monday).

So what went wrong? DeCourcy says Kentucky came up short of what it needed to get from the point-guard position.

"John thought he could work with him (Ryan Harrow) but I don't think it worked," DeCourcy said on "The Leach Report" radio show Monday. "They didn't get the kind of play out of the point guard position that they needed. And it's not about being Derrick Rose. Sometimes, it's just about being Anthony Epps - being a good, solid leader, defender, don't make mistakes, make sure everybody is in the right place, doing the right things. But you have to somewhere on the positive side of the ledger and I don't think Ryan was on the positive side at the most crucial times. I think that was the biggest problem with this team. Obviously, the (Nerlens) Noel injury was an issue (too)."

DeCourcy said Kentucky needed Marquis Teague to return for a second season.

"Marquis would have fixed almost everything that's wrong with this team. And so would Doron Lamb," he said, noting that agrees with the argument made by CBS analyst Charles Barkley about too many players leaving the college game too soon. "His point is if you're going and you're in the second round, then you blew it. Guys should never leave school to be second-round picks."

Kentucky figures to be a major contender for the title next season, but what about this year's NCAA Tournament? I asked DeCourcy to give his take on this mythical contest: identify the national champion from the fewest number of contenders.

"You could go seven or six (deep). It depends on how much you trust Florida. They have unbelievable metrics. They're only team in the country that's top five in the country in offensive and defensive efficiency. Why that doesn't translate into more tough wins, I don't know but it doesn't," DeCourcy said, adding that his "six" are the top four seeds in the tournament plus Michigan State and Duke.

DeCourcy says there are two key criteria in honing in on the true title contenders.

"Do you have multiple pros, preferably some that would be lottery-level and do you have top-20 (numbers) in offensive and defensive efficiency. No champion over the last 10 years has been outside the top 20 by the end of the tournament," he explained.

As for significant upset prospects in the first round, DeCourcy cited two games that will be played in Rupp Arena: Bucknell against six seed Butler and Davison against three-seed Marquette.

Looking at Robert Morris

To me, a football analogy works best in discussing Kentucky's NIT matchup. 

Think of it as one of the second-tier bowl games where the key is often what the favorite's mindset is. Do they really want to be there or are they ready for the season to end because they didn't achieve their goals?

One thing's for sure: Robert Morris will bring its "A" game.

"I don't think we've ever seen anything on the level of Kentucky (in the Sewall Center)," said RMU's Jim Duzyk, the media relations manager for the Colonials program. "It's going to be standing room-only and it's going to be crazy. It's something our guys are looking forward to and are going to cherish for the rest of their lives. I think they're going to be ready.

"The Northeast Conference is traditionally a guard's league. Our coaches go after guys that can put the ball in the basket. That's something we've hung out hat on for probably the last 10 years. All these guys have the ability to shoot the 3-pointer and that makes us more dangerous. Our guys are very unselfish and we're very balanced offensively."

Robert Morris averages 8.6 made 3s per game.

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