Fans who haven’t been following the 2020-21 men’s college basketball season very closely, only helicoptering in for March Madness when the games matter most, might be wondering how powerhouse programs like Kentucky and Duke are looking as the NCAA Tournament approaches.

Well, about that. One very intriguing aspect of this season is that many traditional powers normally viewed as favorites in March won’t be a factor.

Duke, for instance, ended their disappointing season after withdrawing from the ACC Tournament due to a positive COVID-19 test within the program. Following victories over Boston College and Louisville, the Blue Devils were scheduled to play Florida State in a quarterfinal Thursday.

But with a 13-11 overall record and 9-9 mark in the ACC, Duke likely had to win the conference tourney to earn a bid for the NCAA Tournament. That won’t happen now and Duke’s season is over.

An even more surprising development is the end of the Kentucky Wildcats’ season. Slogging through a regular season in which they compiled a 9-16 record (8-9 in the SEC), Kentucky’s only chance at extending its postseason was winning the SEC Tournament and earning the conference’s automatic bid.

However, the Wildcats’ season is now officially over after losing to Mississippi State, 74-73, in its tournament opener. Kentucky fell far behind from the start, trailing 44-30 at halftime, but came back to take a five-point lead with 4:28 remaining on a three-pointer by Davion Mintz.

Yet John Calipari’s team couldn’t carry that rally through to the end, only scoring one basket for the rest of the game. Dontaie Allen missed a three at the buzzer that would’ve been the game-winner.

Allen had 23 points (hitting 6-of-13 from three-point range) with Mintz adding 16 (going 4-of-7 from three) to lead the Wildcats, but that just wasn’t enough to prevent Kentucky from their first loss to Mississippi State since 2009, the program’s first losing record since 1989, and the team’s worst finish among Calipari’s 12 seasons in Lexington.

About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a writer, editor, and podcaster. You can find his work at Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He's written for Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation.