Kentucky has not played in the NIT since 1979 when it lost Maryland one year after the Cats won the national championship. The Cats didn't make postseason play in 1989 and then were on probation in 1990 and 1991. Since then, UK has been in the NCAA every year, including last season when coach Billy Gillispie's first UK team lost to Marquette in the opening round.
Gillispie said Kentucky would "absolutely" play in the NIT if it is invited. The Cats have been projected as one of the top seeds in the NIT and could host a first round game on Tuesday in Memorial Coliseum since Rupp Arena won't be available next week because of the boys state high school tournament.
"Who knows (what might happen)? We will just try to play as hard as we can and win the next game," Gillispie said.
That's the attitude UK's two best players -- sophomore Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks -- insisted they would have for the NIT.
"If we are able to play in the NIT, we will go do it and be excited. If we are not invited, then our season is over," Patterson said.
"We will be excited to play another game," Meeks said. "We are going to battle and not give up. We can be ready to go. We might not like being in the NIT, but we also don't want to keep losing."
Still, junior Ramon Harris the NIT was not what this team had in mind.
"When you play for a school like Kentucky, North Carolina or Duke, you expect to make a run in the NCAA," Harris said. "Now we didn't even make the tournament. That's sad and disappointing and we have no one to blame but ourselves.
"You do not plan to play in the NIT. Now that we are, all we can is go win it. That's the only satisfaction we can salvage from what has been a disappointing year."