I always thought they were too north for the SEC. Big 10 could use a bball addition to Michigan (one of the rare football & basketball powers) and Indiana.
And we've already established that parts of Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois are considered "southern" in culture, as well as Louisville being the "southernmost northern city". Kentucky is intertwined with the north almost as much as it is the south. And Lexington is pretty far north in the state. I always thought of Kentucky as a crossroads state moreso than really belonging to a specific region. West Va. and Va. are that way as well.
If you look at the map of where Lexington is, it's totally isolated in the SEC region. It's pretty level in latitude with Louisville and St. Louis. True it represents a state close to the heart of the region, but the school is pretty far away.
Now put it with Big Ten. Columbus and Bloomington are very close. Champaign and West Lafayette are not too far either. Even the Michigan cities are reasonable distance. The biggest stretch is Minnesota, which is far from most eastern Big 10 schools. But Gainesville and Baton Rouge aren't exactly neighbors to them either.
I'm not going to do this, but if one were to average the distances between U of Kentucky and Big 10 schools, and compare it to the distance average of SEC schools, the Big 10 would likely be lower.
Good topical point. However, in any conference, there will be schools at the outer limits; be it Northern Illinois in the MAC, UTEP in C-USA, South Florida in the NBE, BC in the ACC, TCU in the MWC, or for that matter, Penn State in the Big 10 (sure, PA borders Ohio), and Colorado in the Big 12.
Take the SEC. Look where Fayetteville, Arkansas is located. Arkansas borders, Tennessee and Mississippi to its east, and Louisiana to its south. But the school is in the northwest corner of the state. Certainly, many could argue they should be in the Big 12, playing neighbors such as Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Missouri, and their old Southwest Conference rivals Texas and Texas A&M.
Certainly Florida schools, by geography, will not be centralized conference members. In Florida, the SEC has 1, the ACC 2, the NBE 1, C-USA 1, and the revised SunBelt 2.
South Carolina is another SEC member that is on the outer limits of the conference. However, they have always played Georgia, and Tennessee and Florida are reasonably close. Of course Clemson, GT, and the four NC ACC schools are close also. But South Carolina, a charter ACC member, left the ACC decades ago. They will not switch from the SEC for another ACC invite. The SEC has a "Carolinas" footprint, and I doubt they would want to relinquish it now. When the SEC last expanded, markets, TV sets, etc. were important, but not talked about as much as it is today; and the $$$ factor has grown.
Kentucky is one of those schools that will not be central. Schools such as the ACC's North Carolina four; and the SEC's Auburn, Alabama, and Mississippi State, are going have the advantages of being central; at least in terms of travel compared to some of their brethern. However, being central can have its difficulty. For example, look at who Mississippi State has to recruit against: Alabama is almost just across the border, Ole Miss is close, Memphis is close, Tennesee to the north, LSU to the south; then there are Auburn and Southern Miss. Mississippi is a pretty rural state.