Let’s get a couple of things out first. Both Kentucky and Louisville got absolutely hosed in the NCAA Tournament Seedings yesterday, but in the end, it really does not matter. To win the NCAA title, you have to win six games and if you spend too long complaining about your draw, you end up home before the opening weekend is up. But since I have not written about the draw, I do get a few moments of editorial privilege to complain about it and move on.
The Midwest region has been dubbed the “Region of Doom” and rightfully so. It featured FOUR teams that were in the discussion for a number one seed coming into this weekend: Wichita State, Michigan, Duke, and Louisville. It has a couple of scary mid majors that can beat anyone on any given night in St. Louis and UMass. Remember at one time, UMass had a top five RPI as well. And it has some power conference teams in Kansas State and Texas who have already beaten media darling Kansas. It’s a tough bracket.
It’s utterly ridiculous that Kentucky is an eight seed, but I have always accused the NCAA of playing cute with Kentucky when it comes to the NCAA Tournament and putting attractive matchups ahead of what the seedings should be? So it is not a mere coincidence that somehow UK was devalued enough to have to possibly face Wichita State early. Who can resist the “perfect team against the team that thought they should be 40-0”? And if UK survives that … a rematch with Louisville? Or that always attractive UK vs Duke Elite Eight? And if Duke falls, how about Michigan for more Fab Five comparisons?
Regardless, UK has to play the path they were dealt. And as tough as the region is, all the teams have flaws. Wichita State is still considered untested even though they were a Final Four team last year. Kentucky has already beaten Louisville back when Kentucky was “playing terrible”. Duke and Michigan both have eight losses.
In the end, Kentucky, if they play like they played the last ten minutes versus Florida for even thirty minutes a game can beat all of these teams. Or they can lose to Kansas State on Friday night. It’s time to focus and use this eight seed as motivation and a huge chip on their shoulder. The best way to make the NCAA look dumb for seeding them so low is to win four games and make it back to the Final Four.
As expected, John Calipari was not especially happy about his teams NCAA draw. But in the end, it’s all about getting better and dealing with the path you were given.
On if Julius Randle is one of those guys he’s talking about needing to play better: “Julius has got to play better. Alex has got to play better, you know what I’m saying? Jarrod’s got to play better. But like I said, we’re one of those teams. We just got to go play now. It’s what it is. It doesn’t matter where they seed you now. It’s over. I can be mad about it. You can be mad. Everybody can be, ‘Explain yourself! They had the (No.) 4 strength of schedule. Are you telling people they don’t have to play anybody? Explain it!’ But they don’t have to explain it. They say, ‘That’s what we did.’ So we just got to go play. We got to play basketball in St. Louis.”
On playing Johnson and Cauley-Stein together: “It was good. That’s where we made our run. I kind of rode with it.”
On being close to fans in St. Louis: “It’s good. Yeah, it’ll be good. But it’s close to Wichita. It’s close to Kansas State. Everybody’s gonna have fans. I mean, I bet you everybody uses up their allotment.”
On three SEC teams getting in: “Yeah. One of them was a play-in. I mean, Tennessee as a play-in game? I mean, that’s — again, I mean, I don’t know where this image of our league is right now. But what we just did with Florida, does that mean they’re not very good? I mean, I guess if you say it enough and say it enough it becomes real. But we’ll have to see.”
On if he’d be upset to see Kentucky in his bracket if he coached Wichita State: “He’s not worried about anybody. I’ve had that team, when I was at UMass. And we weren’t worried about anybody else. Didn’t matter who we played, we were comfortable. And if it’s an 8 and 9 seed, they’re, like, ‘I don’t care who they are. They’re still an 8 or 9 seed.’ And we got to win. I’m not worried about Wichita and they’re not worried about us. We got to win our first game, and that’s all our focus will be on. Trying to be prepared to play a really good team, a team – very physical team. So they kind of threw that out. ‘Who’s the most physical team out there? Let’s… .’ Boom. I mean, it’s a physical game and it’s gonna be a tough game.”