Sure, Kentucky can still win the school’s ninth national championship even if it throws in a clunker and gets bounced Friday by a desperate Alabama or Florida squad. A loss in Nashville likely would not even jeopardize UK's place as the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. It is what that loss would represent that is so important.
Sixty-eight teams will see their names on those seed lines Sunday evening when the bracket is unveiled. Sixty-eight teams will be vying for a national championship. Some realistically (Duke). Some a little less so (Northern Iowa). Some merely for the sake of keeping of appearances in the media (Belmont). But even the mightiest of those contenders -- Blue Devils, Badgers, Wildcats from Tucson, Wildcats from Philadelphia -- even those teams at the highest echelon of the sport of college basketball will not be vying for what the Kentucky Wildcats seek. History. 40-0. Undefeated.
A loss in Nashville sees that dream come to an end. A loss in the SEC tourney pulls history from the grasp of the Kentucky Wildcats. An end to the perfect season after the calendar has flipped to March would be devastating. In January, there was debate as to the value of losing. That ship has long since left port. On February 10, 2015, in front of a sold out crowd at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, not only did Kentucky win its 24th game in a row to start the season, but it also passed a threshold. The point of no return.
The 'W' in Baton Rouge represented the end of any notion of the value of losing. The debate was over. The pursuit of perfection, of history, had won out. After surviving Stefan Moody in Rupp, a lackluster performance in College Station and a bout with strep throat, history was within reach.
A loss in the SEC tourney brings Kentucky back to the pack. The Cats would just be one of the field with the same national championship aspirations as everyone else. A loss would hang over the tournament, a shadow on an otherwise perfect day. No one enjoys a hangover. Losing begets losing. The shadow of a once-perfect season would loom large in March. Too large.