The NCAA Tournament is always full of weird reunions and random encounters. That is part of the beauty of March Madness. Since the Wildcats of Kentucky and Kansas State have played just once in the last forty years or so, there is not much history besides that 1951 NCAA Championship game. However, seeing the Kansas State Wildcats flash on the screen as UK’s opponent made Aaron Harrison Sr a bit uncomfortable.
Instead, he squirmed at the sight of whom they will face in their opening game on Friday in St. Louis.
On one side of the court, he will cheer for his sons Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison Jr., star freshmen who make up No. 8 seed Kentucky’s backcourt. On the other end, he will quietly support Wesley Iwundu, a freshman forward who has started 31 games for ninth-seeded Kansas State. Harrison coached all three when they were growing up in Texas and playing for the Houston Defenders AAU program.
“That’s three of my children going against each other,” Harrison said by phone. “I have no good feelings about it. When they flashed the teams on TV I didn’t see Kansas State, I saw Wesley. I would rather see Kentucky play Florida again. Those three are very close, nothing less than brothers.”
Hopefully the reunion will spur the twins to play well against their former team-mate. It seems to have that effect for Iwundu.
I know you can not overlook Kansas State on Friday night and trust me, the players will not. As a fan, it’s only March Madness to look at the rest of the bracket and see the Wichita State Shockers looming. Most pundits have the Shockers sending Kentucky home, but Mr. Dick Vitale thinks otherwise.
Then there is Kentucky as a No. 8 seed. Are you kidding me? I know John Calipari’s team has been a bit of a disappointment, going from preseason No. 1 to an unranked team at season’s end. But if you believe the Wildcats cannot play, go ask Florida about the SEC tournament championship game.
Kentucky could meet Wichita State in a round of 32 game and that is a tough draw for Gregg Marshall’s unbeaten club. I could see the Shockers suffering the same fate as Gonzaga did last season as a No. 1 seed, losing in the round of 32. Oh yes, the Zags fell to Wichita State last season!
At this point, it’s time to stop feeling bad about the horrible seed and hope Kentucky can prove the selection committee wrong. Making it through the first weekend will certainly do that. And even though UK got an eight seed, we know this is not an eight seed team, right?
“We’d have been an eight if we had won,” Calipari said. “They had their minds made up. The only way to prove them wrong is go play ball.”
If they play the type of ball they played this weekend, they could prove plenty of people wrong.
Friday foe Kansas State carries a three-game losing streak to St. Louis. Kentucky was 15th in the RPI computer rankings. Kansas State is 50th.
Says here Kentucky will advance to a Sunday date with Wichita State. The Midwest’s No. 1, and first team to reach the NCAA Tournament undefeated since UNLV in 1991, will play the pre-season No. 1.
Wichita State is the mid-major Florida, only a mid-major that went to the Final Four last year and led Louisville in the national semifinal with six minutes to go.
Like the Gators, Wichita State has a group of veterans that play team-first basketball on both sides of the floor.
And yet, Kentucky came within a shot of beating the real Gators. If the new-look Cats can come that close to knocking off the NCAA Tournament’s overall No. 1 seed, even the No. 8 seed can — emphasis on can — beat the Midwest Region’s No. 1-seed