SEC Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals - Vanderbilt v Kentucky

Kentucky second defending champ in four years to miss NCAA Tournament


We now know for a fact that there will be a new champion in college basketball.

The Kentucky Wildcats, who won it all last season, are among the teams on the outside looking in after the 68-team field was announced on Sunday evening.

Despite going 12-6 in SEC play the Wildcats found themselves on the outside looking in, with the torn ACL suffered by center Nerlens Noel being one of the factors that led to their being left out of the field.

With just three RPI Top 50 victories, two of which came in Lexington, and a record of 4-4 since Noel went down in a loss at Florida the odds were stacked against John Calipari’s team following their SEC tournament loss to Vanderbilt on Friday night.

But even before Noel’s injury the season was a struggle for the Wildcats, given their youth and the fact that this group lacked the stabilizing veterans that the 2012 team possessed. A season filled with peaks and valleys ends up where few expected it to before the season began: outside of the NCAA tournament.

Kentucky becomes the second defending champion in the last four years to miss the NCAA tournament the following season, as North Carolina missed the field in 2010 after the 2009 team cut down the nets in Detroit.

With the nation’s best recruiting class due to arrive on campus in a few months optimism will once again reign among the Kentucky faithful, and with players such as the Harrison twins on board the perimeter play will be much improved. And to be frank the Wildcats aren’t done recruiting either, as both Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon remain on the board.

Many entered the season believing that Kentucky would be a lock to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament, and it can be argued that some of that belief may have seeped down into the players.

But nothing is guaranteed, and the young Wildcats received a painful reminder of this on Selection Sunday.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

VIDEOS: Rhode Island, Maryland exchange heated words in Cancun

Dan Hurley
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No. 2 Maryland finally found their rhythm on Wednesday night, blowing out a good Rhode Island team, 86-63, in the finals of the Cancun Challenge.

Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon combined for 34 points and eight assists on 13-for-14 shooting and Robert Carter added 15 points, nine boards, three assists and three blocks. Peak Maryland, which is what we saw tonight, is really dangerous.

But Peak Maryland wasn’t the story after the game, as tempers flared in the waning minutes.

It started when Maryland coach Mark Turgeon called a timeout with less than two minutes remaining. Jake Layman had just hit a three to put Maryland up by 24 points and Turgeon wanted to get his walk-ons in the game. Hurley said to the Maryland bench, “We’ll see you again, boy,” according to Inside Maryland Sports, which prompted this reaction from Turgeon:

After the game, the two teams had to be separated in layup lines. According to reports from IMS and from the Baltimore Sun, Hurley was cursing at Maryland players as he was shaking their hands after the game. According Doug Gottlieb, who called the game for CBS Sports Network, Trimble said that the Rhode Island team wanted to “fight us”:

Wayne Selden stars as Kansas wins the title in Maui

Wayne Selden Jr., Jeff Roberson
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The last time we wrote about Wayne Selden in this space, it was my colleague Scott Phillips who questioned, after a poor performance in the Champions Classic, whether or not Selden is capable of bring a primary scorer for a team with NCAA title aspirations.

At the time, it wasn’t an unfair question to ask.

Selden is a former top 15 recruit. He is a guy who was expected to go one-and-done that played poorly in the first big game of his third year on campus. But after three days it Maui, it appears that the old Wayne Selden is gone.

[MORE: Kansas got Cheick Diallo news today]

He capped an MVP performance in the Maui Invitational with 25 points and seven boards on 8-for-11 shooting as the No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks knocked off No. 19 Vanderbilt, 70-63, in the title game. Selden was terrific for the entire weekend, averaging 21.5 points in the two games against Division I competition and shooting 12-for-17 from beyond the arc in the three game tournament.

It was the best that we’ve seen Selden play during his Jayhawk career, and it came in a game the Jayhawks desperately needed it. Vanderbilt is a damn good team. They’re ranked 19th, which may actually be too low, and they seem to clearly be the biggest challenger to Kentucky in the SEC. They jumped out to a double-digit lead on Kansas in the first half as the Jayhawks seemed to be sleep-walking early in the game.

Enter Selden. He drilled three threes in the first half and scored 13 of the 26 Jayhawk points to keep them close. In other words, he played like a star on a night Kansas desperately needed someone to step up and play like a star. Remember: this is a dude that had enough talent and potential in high school to be considered a McDonald’s All-American and a potential lottery pick. The ability is there:

(That move is filthy.)

The question has always been whether or not he is capable of putting it all together, of being the guy that can be relied upon to make the big play in the big moment, to carry a team with title aspirations.

And to be fair, the jury is still out in that regard. Are we just going to ignore those four free throws he clanged down the stretch?

But seeing Selden have this kind of performance in a game like this against a team that is this good is unquestionably a positive for Kansas moving forward.