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By-the-numbers look at UK's NCAA Tournament path

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The field is set and the pairings have been announced. In just a couple days the madness will finally begin.

There will be plenty to talk about over the next few days - especially Kentucky's surprising eight seed in the Midwest - but first let's take a look at some of the NCAA Tournament numbers, particularly how they pertain to UK's Midwest bracket.

  • UK is 8-0 all-time vs. Kansas State. The last meeting was in 2007 in Las Vegas, a 74-72 victory for the Cats. UK beat Kansas State in 1951 to win its third national championship.
  • Kentucky is 42-10 in tournament openers and has won 20 of its last 21 to start the Big Dance.
  • UK is making its 53rd NCAA Tournament appearance. The Cats are 111-46 all-time with eight national championships, three runner-up finishes, 15 Final Four appearances and 35 Elite Eight appearances.
  • John Calipari is making his 15th NCAA Tournament appearance as a head coach. He's reached the Final Four four times.
  • UK is 2-3 all-time as an eight seed. The Cats were an eight seed in 2006 and 2007. In both those seasons UK won its first game before falling to a one seed in the next game.
  • The last No. 8 seed to make the Final Four was Butler in 2011. The Bulldogs lost to UConn in the national championship. Wichita State made the Final Four as a nine seed last year.
  • UK has played seven teams in the NCAA Tournament field this year, going 3-6 against them. By comparison, Kansas State has played eight opponents in the field, posting a 7-8 record against them. 
  • Kansas State, playing in arguably the best conference in America this season in the Big 12, posted a 3-3 record vs. the RPI top 25 and a 7-8 mark against the RPI top 50.
  • Kentucky was officially the 29th overall seed in the tournament, meaning the Cats are the top eight seed. Perhaps a win over Florida would have moved them up a seed line after all.Oddly, the Midwest features three play-in games. The only other region that has one is the South where a pair of 16 seeds match up for the right to play No. 1 overall seed Florida.
  • There are six teams in the Midwest ranked in the top 20 of ESPN's final RPI rankings.
  • Why is the Midwest considered the toughest region? Let's break down the top four seed lines. Not only does the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee split the seeds into four regions, it also seeds the overall teams 1-68. Florida was the top overall seed, Arizona was No. 2, UK, as mentioned above, was No. 29, and all the way down at No. 68 was Cal Poly. The NCAA Selection Committee then uses those seeds to try and make the regions even by adding the overall seed numbers together to gauge the strength of the bracket. For instance, if you pair the top No. 1 seed, which would obviously be the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, with the worst No. 2 seed, which would be the No. 8 overall seed, you get a total of nine (1 + 8). Still following along? OK, so taking the top four seeds in each region and adding them up, the West has a cumulative seeding of 37 (No. 2 Arizona + No. 8 Wisconsin + No. 11 Creighton + No. 16 San Diego State), the East has a cumulative seeding of 35 (No. 4 Virginia + No. 5 Villanova + No. 12 Iowa State + No. 14 Michigan State), the South has a cumulative seeding of 33 (No. 1 Florida + No. 7 Kansas + No. 10 Syracuse + No. 15 UCLA), and the Midwest has a cumulative seeding of 31 (No. 3 Wichita State + No. 6 Michigan + No. 9 Duke + No. 13 Louisville). The lower the total seeding, the tougher the bracket. Now all things being fair, the regions would add up to be equal (across all seed lines and not just the top four like we're using as an example), but other factors like geography, playing a conference opponent and more come into play. Still, 31 is a strong bracket considering the lowest possible number you could get (i.e. the toughest bracket possible) would be 28 (No. 1 + No. 5 + No. 9 + No. 13).
  • Though UK has the most difficult bracket in terms of seeding, the Midwest is actually the worst in terms of winning percentage. Combined, East teams have a .757 winning percentage, the South and West are tied with a .732 winning percentage, and the Midwest has a .701 mark. The fact that the region has three play-in games probably has something to do with that.

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