2018 NCAA Tournament: Could Kentucky have easiest path to Final Four in history?

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Think Kentucky could end up with the easiest path to a Final Four ever? Not really, as it turns out. Not even one of the five easiest paths in history, seed-wise.

The fifth-seeded Wildcats got a gift when the top four seeds in their South Regional suffered upset losses on the first weekend of the 2018 NCAA Tournament. UK’s path to the Final Four, then, would be No. 12 seed Davidson, No. 13 seed Buffalo — both already vanquished — then No. 9 seed Kansas State and either No. 7 seed Nevada or No. 11 seed Loyola-Chicago.

In the latter scenario (facing a 12, 13, 9 and 11 to reach the Final Four), adding up the total seeds equals 45. That’s a huge number, and it would be the highest ever for a No. 5 seed reaching the Final Four (only six No. 5 seeds have made it that far since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985).

But it wouldn’t be the biggest number — a.k.a. easiest path — for any Final Four team. There have been five easier: 2011 Kansas (48), 2001 Michigan State (48), 1991 North Carolina (47), 1990 UNLV (47) and 2008 Kansas (46). The common thread there is all of those teams were No. 1 seeds and opened the tournament against a No. 16, then benefited from a series of upsets in front of them.

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So where would this kind of easy street (on paper) rank in Kentucky’s own history? The Wildcats have made the Final Four eight times since the field expanded in 1985 and never beat four teams to get there with a combined seed total higher than 32 (they hit that number in 1993, 1998 and 2015).

UK’s number would be 45 if it beats K-State and Loyola or 41 if it’s KSU and Nevada. Either way, that would be the easiest path to a Final Four in program history.

But don’t think coach John Calipari is expecting to cruise to San Antonio. On his radio show Monday night, Calipari said he’d gathered the team in his office late the night before to deliver an important warning.

“If you think you’re just going to show up, you will not advance in this thing,” he told his players. “Everything is a dogfight.”

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Easiest Final Four paths since 1985

2011 Kansas — 16, 9, 12, 11 (48)

2001 Michigan State — 16, 9, 12, 11 (48)

1991 North Carolina — 16, 9, 12, 10 (47)

1990 UNLV — 16, 8, 12, 11 (47)

2008 Kansas — 16, 8, 12, 10 (46)

No. 5 seed Final Four paths since 1985

1996 Mississippi State — 12, 13, 1, 2 (28)

2000 Florida — 12, 4, 1, 3 (20)

2002 Indiana — 12, 13, 1, 10 (36)

2005 Michigan State — 12, 13, 1, 2 (28)

2010 Butler — 12, 13, 1, 2 (28)

2010 Michigan State — 12, 4, 9, 6 (31)

Kentucky’s Final Four paths since 1985

1993

16 seed Rider, 8 seed Utah, 5 seed Wake Forest, 3 seed Florida State

1996 (champion)

16 seed San Jose State, 9 seed Virginia Tech, 4 seed Utah, 2 seed Wake Forest

1997 (runner-up)

16 seed Montana, 8 seed Iowa, 4 seed St. Joseph’s, 2 seed Utah

1998 (champion)

15 seed SC State, 10 seed St. Louis, 6 seed UCLA, 1 seed Duke

2011

13 seed Princeton, 5 seed West Virginia, 1 seed Ohio State, 2 seed North Carolina

2012 (champion)

16 seed Western Kentucky, 8 seed Iowa State, 4 seed Indiana, 3 seed Baylor

2014 (runner-up)

9 seed Kansas State, 1 seed Wichita State, 4 seed Louisville, 2 seed Michigan

2015

16 seed Hampton, 8 seed Cincinnati, 5 seed West Virginia, 3 seed Notre Dame

The post 2018 NCAA Tournament: Could Kentucky have easiest path to Final Four in history? appeared first on SEC Country.

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