When the 2022-23 college basketball season started, Kentucky’s goal, as a preseason top-5 team, was to secure a top seed in the NCAA Tournament’s South Regional, where the Wildcats could potentially play de facto home games in both the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 at the nearby KFC Yum! Center in Louisville.

UK won a pair of NCAA Tournament games in Louisville on its way to the Final Four in both 2012 and 2015.

But just because Kentucky won’t be a top seed, doesn’t mean they won’t be in Louisville.

In ESPN’s latest Bracketology following the conclusion of the regular season, Joe Lunardi has the Wildcats as a No. 7 seed in the South Region, opening NCAA Tournament play vs. No. 10 West Virginia out of the Big 12 in Columbus, which is also just a three-hour drive from Lexington. Should they win their first NCAA Tournament game since 2019, Kentucky would take on the winner of (2) Purdue and (15) Vermont.

Kentucky is one of eight SEC schools in the NCAA Tournament field, the second-most of any conference behind only the Big Ten with 10, and is joined by (1) Alabama, (3) Tennessee, (7) Texas A&M, (8) Missouri, (9) Arkansas, (11) Auburn, and (11) Mississippi State.

The Wildcats are 8-7 vs. Lunardi’s NCAA Tournament field. Following its 88-73 home loss to Arkansas on Feb. 7, Kentucky was just 1-7 vs. Quad 1 opponents according to the NCAA’s NET rankings, a tool used to seed the NCAA Tournament. Less than a month later, UK is now 6-7 in Quad 1 games following an 88-79 road win over the Razorbacks in Saturday’s regular season finale.

A preseason top-5 team, Kentucky finished 21-10 overall. After a 1-3 start in the SEC, its worst start since the 1986-87 season, UK won 11 of its last 14 league games to finish 12-6 in the conference.

The No. 23 Wildcats (21-10, 12-6 SEC) will open postseason play in the 2023 SEC Tournament, which will take place at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville March 8-12, vs. the winner of (11) Georgia or (14) LSU vs. (6) Vanderbilt in the late game Friday night at approximately 9:00 PM ET (8 PM CT).

UK defeated LSU 74-71 at Rupp Arena on Jan. 3, split the season series with Georgia, winning 85-71 in Lexington on Jan. 17 and losing 75-68 in Athens on Feb. 11. The Cats also split the season series vs. Vanderbilt, defeating the Commodores 69-53 in Nashville on Jan. 24 and losing to Vandy 68-66 on Senior Night at Rupp Arena on March 1.

In all, Kentucky is 6-3 vs. its half of the bracket, which also includes (2) Texas A&M, (7) Auburn, and (10) Arkansas. The Wildcats were also 6-3 against the opposite half of the bracket, which features (1) Alabama, (4) Missouri, and (5) Tennessee.

UK is 21-4 all-time in SEC Tournament games played in the city of Nashville, winning six tournament titles.

Kentucky has won six SEC Tournament championships under head coach John Calipari since 2010, including four straight from 2015-18. UK is 24-6 in the event during the Calipari era, winning 13 straight games from 2015-19 but losing two of its last three. In all, the Wildcats have won 31 SEC Tournament titles dating back to 1933, more than every other league school combined.