The Wildcats face a familiar NCAA Tournament opponent in the first round when they square off with ninth-seeded UAB (24-6) on Friday at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pa. The two teams have met twice previously in the tournament with UAB winning both battles.
In the 2004 second round, the ninth-seeded Blazers shocked No. 1 Kentucky, 76-75, in Columbus, Ohio, en route to the Sweet 16. The other meeting came in the 1981 second round when UAB, making its first NCAA Tournament appearance, beat the Wildcats, 69-62, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
This year marks the 12th all-time appearance in the tournament for the Blazers, including their third straight. Last season, UAB upset LSU in the first round before falling to Arizona.
Opposite UK in the pod is top-seeded UConn (27-3) and No. 16 Albany (21-10). The winners of the two games meet on Sunday with a trip to the Sweet 16 at the MCI Center in Washington D.C. on the line. UConn, the Big East champion, won the national championship in 1999 and 2004. Albany is making its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament after winning the America East Tournament. The Great Danes also won the America East regular-season title.
The other first round match-ups in Philadelphia are out of the Minneapolis Region. Top-seeded Villanova faces the winner of the opening round game between Monmouth and Hampton, while No. 8 Arizona meets No. 9 Wisconsin.
For the fourth time in NCAA play, Kentucky travels to Philadelphia, where UK is 2-2 in tournament games. The Wildcats play at the Wachovia Center for the second time with the first coming in 2001 when UK fell to Southern Cal in the regional semifinal (it was then known as the First Union Center).
Previously, the Wildcats played in Philadelphia in 1977 and 1992, posting a 2-1 record. The defeat was the epic 104-103 overtime battle against eventual national champion Duke.
Sunday's bid is the 47th all time for Kentucky, which is an NCAA record. The 15-straight appearance is the third longest active streak in the nation. Arizona has the longest run with 22 consecutive trips and Kansas is second at 17 straight.
Kentucky has won seven national championships, been to 13 Final Fours and 28 Elite Eights, including two in the past three years. Last year, the Wildcats fell one step short of the Final Four when it lost in double overtime to Michigan State.
Kentucky head coach Tubby Smith is making his 13th straight appearance in the tournament and has the sixth best winning percentage in the tournament among active coaches with a 27-11 mark. He led UK to the 1998 national championship in his first year with UK.
The No. 8 seed is the lowest since 1987, which marks the only other time Kentucky has been seeded eighth. That season, Ohio State pulled off a first-round upset in Atlanta, marking the only time UK has lost in the first round in its last 20 appearances (including vacated 1988 appearance).
Tickets for the first and second rounds are available first for K-Fund members with an order deadline of Monday, March 13 at 4:00 p.m. Donors who receive tickets will be contacted via email or phone on Monday, March 13 after 4:00 p.m. Any unclaimed donor tickets will be sold to the general public on Tuesday, March 14 at 9:00 am. Tickets through the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia have sold out.
Kentucky will also hold a student ticket lottery on Monday, March 13 at 5:00 pm at the ticket office (Room 4, Memorial Coliseum). Tickets will be $60 per session, and students will receive a voucher to redeem at the tournament site. Students must pay $60 for the first session at the lottery.
The Southeastern Conference garnered six bids overall. Tennessee picked up the best seed in the league, a No. 2 in the Washington, D.C., Region. Florida earned a No. 3 seed in the Minneapolis Regional.
LSU earned the No. 4 seed in the Atlanta Region while Arkansas and Alabama are the No. 8 and No. 10 seeds, respectively, in the Oakland Region.
Duke is the overall No. 1 seed after winning the Atlantic Coast Conference championship and the ACC Tournament title. The Blue Devils were joined by UConn, Villanova and Memphis as the tournament's other top seeds.
The tournament culminates with the Final Four, which will be held at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Ind. It is the fifth time Indianapolis has hosted the Final Four. Kentucky was the runner-up at the 1997 Final Four at the RCA Dome.