LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — John Calipari wasn’t surprised when his team’s NCAA destination was revealed Sunday.
“I would have been shocked if we got a four seed,” Calipari said. “I would have been shocked. I would have been stunned. I'm not. I always say when you miss-seed somebody, you're not hurting that person or his team. It's who he plays is who you hurt. That's Wichita State. Just it is what it is. But I like how my team's playing and we're going to go play some basketball games in Boise.”
Kentucky, (24-10), which captured its fourth straight Southeastern Conference Tournament championship Sunday, is a No. 5 seed in the South Region and will take on 12th-seeded Davidson at 7:10 p.m. Thursday in Boise, Idaho.
A possible second-round matchup against No. 4 seed Arizona and a Sweet 16 matchup against overall top seed Virginia could await the Wildcats if they advance past the opening round.
Like his coach, Wenyen Gabriel wasn’t surprised by the South Region bracket.
“It’s a tough bracket. But then again, it’s March,” he said. “You gotta play a tough game every day and we just have to focus on the game at hand. We got Davidson coming up. That’s a good team we gotta focus on right there and I’m not trying to look too far down the bracket after we play Davidson. Hopefully, we win, then we’re going to look on to the next game.”
Calipari was disappointed the selection committee didn’t consider his team’s win over Tennessee in the SEC finals when putting together the final bracket.
“I thought maybe we'd have a chance, but I keep coming back to — do you understand why I don't think conference tournaments are worth anything other than our fans like to travel?” He said. “It doesn't help your seed. I'll tell you this, do you think it would hurt if we lost early? It did hurt.”
Kentucky, which has won eight national titles, will be making its 57th appearance in the Big Dance. For just the second time in program history, the Wildcats will be a No. 5 seed. Kentucky was seeded fifth in 2000 when it defeated St Bonaventure in the opening round before falling to No. 4 seed Syracuse in the second round.
The Wildcats have won 24 of their past 25 first-round games and is 124-50 in the prestigious event. Kentucky will be making its fifth straight appearance in the tourney. Kentucky is 1-0 against Davidson and defeated the Wildcats 75-55 in the 1986 NCAA Tournament in Charlotte.
The Wildcats defeated top-seeded Rhode Island to win the Atlantic-10 Tournament on Sunday. Davidson coach Bob McKillop has guided his team to nine NCAA appearances and the Wildcats (21-11) have won eight of their past nine games.
Overall, the Southeastern Conference got a league-record eight teams in the tourney. Tennessee is the No. 3 seed in the South, followed by Auburn, which is No. 4 in the Midwest Region. Alabama is a nine seed, Arkansas is No. 7, followed by No. 6 seed Florida, No. 8 Missouri and seventh-seeded Texas A&M.
“This league will do damage,” Calipari said. “It’s been doing damage. They just haven’t let more teams in. (In the past) We have teams borderline that should have advanced that didn’t get in. Now, we have eight teams in.”
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org