Smith was obviously not happy to have been asked that question. He was already in a pretty sour mood. His Wildcats had just lost a close contest to the Gamecocks mere moments earlier. His response was brief and pointed, "I'm not absolutely convinced of nothing," he said, bluntly, "I have no comment about that. How can I comment about that? I just hope that we get an opportunity. I believe we will."
And they should. The Wildcats' record of 21-12, while well below Kentucky's standards, is very respectable for an at-large bid. Certainly, winning two games in the SEC Tournament will help. And the Cats have victories over ranked schools like West Virginia and Tennessee on their resume. Still, it has been a long time since a group of Kentucky players sat together around a TV waiting to see "if" their school is called when the brackets are announced Sunday evening. The Wildcats are much more used to just wondering how high of a seed they will receive.
"We have to put this loss behind us, get back home to Lexington and prepare for who we will face in the tournament," said Rajon Rondo. But wait. Aren't you worried about getting the invitation? "We will get in," said Rekalin Sims, "I don't think many is us doubt that. I mean, I don't know it for sure. But I believe it. We would have just liked to have won this tournament and taken any doubt away. But that didn't happen. Still, we had quite a few good wins and played much better toward the end of the season."
If the Wildcats do get the invitation, as most experts believe will happen, there is always the question of where they will play and who they will face. The general consensus is that the players are not too concerned about which region they will be assigned or who they will go up against.
"We have been so focused on the SEC Tournament that I haven't given it any thought," said sophomore center Randolph Morris, "but I don't think it matters. When you get to the NCAA Tournament you are pretty much going to get a tough challenge from any team you face."
The latest ESPN bracketology has Kentucky projected as a 7-seed, and predicted to begin the tournament in Dayton, where the winners advance to the regionals in Atlanta. "That would be good if that happened," said point guard Rajon Rondo, "it's always nice to play as close to home as possible to make it easy for the fans to get out and support us."