NCAA Tournament or NIT: Where will Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas & Michigan State end up?

NCAA Tournament or NIT: Where will Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas & Michigan State end up?

How many bluebloods will be shut out of the Big Dance this year?
How many bluebloods will be shut out of the Big Dance this year?
Image: AP

Depending on when you read this, it’s been at least 712 days since the last men’s NCAA Tournament began and at least 692 days since a tournament game has been played. We understand if you’re a little rusty, have forgotten how to fill out a bracket, or if you don’t even remember that Virginia is still the reigning champs.

So, as casual fans are preparing to start focusing on college basketball, they might find it strange that all the usual suspects may not be there. The bluebloods like Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, and Michigan State have all had really weird seasons. Check out this tidbit from January.

As we head into the final week of the regular season before the conference tournaments start, here is a guide to help you understand where those teams may or may not be headed.

Saginaw Native. Morehouse Man. Syracuse (Newhouse) Alum. 2019 & 2020 NABJ Award Winner. 2016 PABJ Journalist of the Year. I only eat my wings lemon-peppered. And I like brown liquor & brown women.

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Duke

Duke

Illustration for article titled NCAA Tournament or NIT: Where will Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas & Michigan State end up?
Image: AP

During Saturday’s broadcast of the Duke/Louisville, it was mentioned that ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi believed that if the Blue Devils won they were in the tournament, as it would improve their record to 12-8, extending their winning streak to five.

Duke lost 80-73 in overtime.

Coach K’s team has been a mess all season. They’re young. They canceled three non-conference games that were crucial to their development due to COVID-19. The Cameron Crazies aren’t there to cheer them on. And their most-talented player opted-out a few weeks ago after a tumultuous season filled with bad play, glimpses of stardom, and a foot injury.

This week, Duke heads to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech and then ends the season in Chapel Hill against North Carolina. They need to win both of those games and at least one, maybe two, in the ACC Tournament if they have any desire not to avoid being banished to the NIT. Duke hasn’t missed the tournament since 1995 when Coach K was out for most of the year.

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Kentucky

Kentucky

Illustration for article titled NCAA Tournament or NIT: Where will Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas & Michigan State end up?
Image: AP

If I told you that the winningest program in Division I college basketball history only has 8 wins this season would you believe me?

The Wildcats are going through it this season as they’re dealing with many of the same ailments Duke is. As the only two “one-and-done” schools in the land, youth can be a huge hurdle during a pandemic that throws off your entire preseason and non-conference schedule. And besides, all No.1- and No. 2-ranked recruiting classes aren’t created equally. Just because you’re a five-star recruit, it doesn’t mean that you’re Jahlil Okafor or Anthony Davis.

The Wildcats have losing streaks of six, four, and three this season, as 13 of the 16 players on their roster are freshmen or sophomores. And their “star senior,” Olivier Sarr, is a first-year transfer who is playing in his first — and last — season in Lexington.

Kentucky lost a game they needed to win against Florida on Saturday 71-67, and have games against Ole Miss and South Carolina this week. Winning those games is a must, but at this point, anything outside of winning the SEC Tournament is the only way Kentucky will be dancin’.

In 2013, a year after they won the national title, Kentucky played in the NIT and lost in the first round in a road game to Robert Morris 59-57.

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North Carolina

North Carolina

Illustration for article titled NCAA Tournament or NIT: Where will Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas & Michigan State end up?
Image: AP

Breathe easy Carolina fans, you’re in. After Saturday’s comeback win over a No. 11-ranked Florida State, UNC has officially booked their ticket to the “Big Dance.” Now, it’s all about seeding as they have games against Syracuse and Duke this week before the ACC Tournament gets underway.

At 15-8, things are looking better for Roy Williams’ Tar Heels than they did earlier this season. Last year, they were headed to the NIT after a 14-19 season that was even worse than it sounds before COVID-19 shut everything down. Like Kentucky, the Heels played in the NIT a season after winning a national title. Coming off winning it all in 2009, UNC finished 20-17 in 2010 and lost in the NIT Championship game to Dayton.

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Kansas

Kansas

Illustration for article titled NCAA Tournament or NIT: Where will Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas & Michigan State end up?
Image: AP

When we woke up on Saturday morning there were two undefeated teams in the country, No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2 Baylor.

That is not the case anymore.

Kansas overtly punched their tournament ticket on Saturday after knocking off No. 2 Baylor 71-58 to improve to 18-8 on the season. Despite how crazy this year has been due to COVID-19, a team like Kansas – that was once unranked at one point this season – has seven wins over ranked teams (No. 20 Kentucky, No. 8 Creighton, No. 14 Texas Tech, No. 7 West Virginia, No. 23 Oklahoma State, No. 15 Texas Tech, No. 2 Baylor)..

The Jayhawks have been so good for so long that they’ve been in the tournament every year since 1989 — the season after they won a national title — as they were ineligible due to NCAA violations for “illegal extra benefits.”

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Michigan State

Michigan State

Illustration for article titled NCAA Tournament or NIT: Where will Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas & Michigan State end up?
Image: AP

Hey Spartan fans, all is not lost. If Michigan State wins its road game against Maryland on Sunday afternoon, it will put it on a four-game winning streak with wins against Indiana, No. 5 Illinois, and No. 4 Ohio State.

And to make things even sweeter for the Green and White, their regular-season schedule includes a matchup with Indiana and a home-and-home series with No. 3 Michigan, which is the hottest team in the country. If they take care of business, they could lose early in the Big Ten tournament and still feel safe with wins like this against Top-10 teams on their resume.

The Spartans have made the tournament every year since 1998, which was Tom Izzo’s third season in charge. His first two years ended in second-round exits in the NIT.

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What does this all mean?

What does this all mean?

Illustration for article titled NCAA Tournament or NIT: Where will Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas & Michigan State end up?
Image: AP

Since last year’s tournament was canceled, it cost the NCAA $600 million in lost revenue and more than $800 million,if you include tickets. In 2019, the NCAA made most of its $1.12 billion revenue from the men’s tournament that was highlighted by a Duke team that featured three top-10 draft picks.

When the bluebloods are good they bring in viewers and revenue. According to SportsMediaWatch, Duke has never dipped below 28 million viewers in their nine national championship game appearances under Coach K, as they’ve played in four (1999, 2001, 2010, 2015) of the most-watched national title games. The only matchup with similar numbers was the 2005 national title game that featured UNC. And when it comes to Kentucky, they’ve made it to the Sweet Sixteen eight times and advanced to four Final Fours since 2010.

What does that mean?

If any of the bluebloods are surging on the bubble in a few weeks, you can bet that they’ll get a tournament bid over Richmond or Colorado State. It’s not a fair decision, but it’s a business one.

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Saginaw Native. Morehouse Man. Syracuse (Newhouse) Alum. 2019 & 2020 NABJ Award Winner. 2016 PABJ Journalist of the Year. I only eat my wings lemon-peppered. And I like brown liquor & brown women.