LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky enters the NCAA Tournament as a No. 2 seed for the seventh time in school history. And while No. 2 seeds aren’t immune (like No. 1 seeds) to first round fiascos, wins are rare among No. 15 seeds.
But there’s been notable occurrences like last year when Middle Tennessee upset Michigan State.
SEC Country decided to go behind the numbers of the No. 2 vs. No. 15 tournament matchup to see just how big of a challenge UK could face from Northern Kentucky.
How likely is an upset?
Not very, but much higher than it used to be.
No. 2 seeds are 120-8 against No. 15 seeds all time. That gives 15 seeds like Northern Kentucky a 0.6 percent chance to pull off an upset. That’s a pretty comfortable spot for the Cats to be in.
But consider this: Four of the eight upsets have come since 2012. So although No. 15 seeds historically have less than a 1 percent chance to knock off No. 2 seeds, No. 15 seeds are winning 25 percent of the matchups since 2012.
It’s a bizarre trend. One of the four was the aforementioned Middle Tennessee over Michigan State last season. The others: Florida Gulf Coast over Georgetown in 2013, Norfolk State over Missouri in 2012 and Lehigh over Duke in 2012.
How has Kentucky fared as a No. 2 seed?
The Cats are 5-1 in NCAA Tournament openers as a No. 2 seed.
*1981: No. 7 UAB 69, No. 2 Kentucky 62
1988: No. 2 Kentucky 99, No. 15 Southern 84
1992: No. 2 Kentucky 88, No. 15 Old Dominion 69
1998: No. 2 Kentucky 82, No. 15 South Carolina State 67
2001: No. 2 Kentucky 72, No. 15 Holy Cross 68
2005: No. 2 Kentucky 72, No. 15 Eastern Kentucky 64
*Prior to tournament expansion in 1985. UK is undefeated as a No. 2 seed when playing No. 15 seeds.
What are the odds?
Ken Pomeroy’s rankings give UK a 95.6 percent chance to advance to the second round.
FiveThirtyEight’s model gives UK a 97 percent chance to advance to the second round.
ESPN’s basketball power index gives UK a 96.9 chance to advance to the second round.