The Wildcats were tabbed the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region of the NCAA Tournament with an opening matchup against either Hampton or Manhattan on Thursday at the Yum! Center in Louisville.
”Our fans would still travel even if we played in California,” UK junior center/forward Willie Cauley-Stein said of playing in the Derby City. “They would still be there. It just makes it a lot easier on them, I guess. It’s good. We’re still in the state of Kentucky and everything like that. Being an hour away is good, too. Like I said, it really doesn’t matter where we play. You’ve still got to throw the ball up.”
Tipoff is slated for 9:40 p.m. ET or approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the 8/9 matchup between Cincinnati and Purdue. It will be broadcast by CBS with Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel and Allie LaForce on the call.
Kentucky (34-0) is seeking to become the first team since Indiana in 1976 to complete an undefeated championship season. It marks the 12th time in program history that the Wildcats have been tabbed the No. 1 overall seed for the tourney.
The Midwest also includes Kansas (2), Notre Dame (3), Maryland (4), West Virginia (5), Butler (6), Wichita State (7), Indiana (10), Texas (11), Buffalo (12), Valparaiso (13), Northeastern (14) and New Mexico State (15).
If Kentucky wins its first two games, the Cats will advance to the Sweet 16 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Final Four will be played in Indianapolis.
“It’s a good bracket,” UK coach John Calipari said. “I didn’t get to see it all and I haven’t really studied it, but you kind of wanted to know who those four were with us … My concern right now is making sure we’re in a great frame of mind. And this team right now is.”
The Cats enter NCAA play coming off the 28th SEC Tournament championship in school history. UK defeated No. 21 Arkansas 78-63 on Sunday in Nashville.
Manhattan, coached by former UK player Steve Masiello and assisted by Heshimu Evans, enters the tournament with a 19-13 record after winning the MAAC’s automatic bid. Hampton (16-17) and earned an automatic bid after beating Delaware State in the MEAC Tournament. The Jaspers and Pirates square off on Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio.
“Manhattan is good," Calipari said. "I watched them play the (MAAC) championship game. I watched some of that. I think they play hard, they pick up, they’re aggressive and they’re not going to back away. They’re not going to be afraid. Steve has done a great job with that team. They struggled early, so they are at their best right now, but they have to beat Hampton. That’s the greatest thing about this tournament.”