Scout/Jeff Drummond

John Calipari says Kentucky Wildcats have hands full with second-round matchup against Wichita State

Matchup between Cats, Shockers only second time two 30-win clubs have met on first weekend of NCAA Tournament.

It's the "rematch" that really isn't a rematch on Sunday as Kentucky plays Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament's Round of 32 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

The second-seeded Wildcats will face the 10th-seeded Shockers in a game that will undoubtedly stir memories of the schools' epic 2014 tourney matchup but features almost completely different personnel.

"I don't know if it's a coincidence or not," Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall said. "They've got quite a sense of humor, then, don't they, those guys in that room?

"The bottom line is the only two guys that remember that game, other than you media people, are Coach Cal and I. Everyone else is new. There might have been a couple of my guys that were freshmen at that point, but can't think of too many that played in that game that are going to be playing. I think Willie Caulley-Stein is with Sacramento and (Julius) Randle is with the Lakers, I hope."

Kentucky head coach John Calipari says he doesn't put much stock into three-year-old flashbacks, but has the same kind of respect that he did when the roles were somewhat reversed and a badly mis-seeded UK club was trying to take down a previously undefeated Wichita State squad in an 8-versus-1 matchup.

"They're talented. They're big. They're physical. They're strong. They're veterans. Good team," the UK boss said of the Shockers, 31-4 and winners of 16 consecutive games.

The No. 5 Wildcats (30-5) are riding their own 12-game winning streak, but Wichita State is a much tougher challenge than the one UK faced in the first round against Northern Kentucky. 

It marks only the second time in NCAA Tournament history that two 30-win clubs have met on the first weekend.

"I've watched four tapes of theirs," Calpari said. "I can just tell you that they viciously go after offensive rebounds. If you don't rebound in the game, you don't have a chance to beat them."

That's just one of many positive attributes for the Missouri Valley champs. During the regular season, Wichita State ranked in the top 10 nationally in scoring margin (+19.6), field goal percentage defense (.378), rebounding margin (+8.9), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.45) and 3-point field goal percentage (.408). 

Two Shockers, freshman point guard Landry Shamet and junior guard Conner Frankamp, both shot over 50 percent from beyond the 3-point arc in conference play. Junior center Shaquille Morris averaged 12.1 points and 6.8 rebounds during WSU's current win streak. 

Wichita State also has the depth to compete with UK. Its bench ranked third nationally in the regular season at almost 36 points per game. The Shockers have posted 50 or more bench points on five occasions this season and topped 60 twice.

In other words, they are very much equipped to end UK's season on the first weekend. 

"It's the kind of game that's just a competitive... " Calipari said before pausing. "You know what it's going to be, and you love walking into those kind of games, know how good they are. You got an unbelievable opponent who plays with heart and fight and battles, and you bring your team in, your young team, and say let's see what we are.

"So I'm looking forward to it just because I know how good they are. It's going to be a hard game, and I want to see how my young guys respond."


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