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From the KSR Archives, UK Beats Wichita State in 2014: Kentucky spoils one story, writing a classic of its own

Chris Lee | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Chris Lee | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Editor’s Note: The following story is Mrs. Tyler Thompson’s recap after the eight-seeded Cats upset undefeated Wichita State in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament.  The blast from the past will take you back to the moment where you knew something special was happening.  The original images have been archived, so it isn’t quite the same, but if you’d like to see the original comments, click here.  Enjoy our top story from March 23, 2014.   


Three weeks ago in South Carolina, a teary-eyed Aaron Harrison told reporters that this season was still going to be a “great story.” His words rang a bit hollow during the low point of the season, but tonight, after one of the greatest basketball games I’ve ever witnessed, I’m not only seeing that story, I’m believing it.

Everything was set up for Wichita State to win. Despite going to the Final Four and being a number one seed, the mid-major darling still got the Cinderella treatment, and at halftime, the media had their recaps written. “36-0 vs. the team that was supposed to be 40-0.” Even with all the talent in the world, Cal’s one-and-done’s were just freshmen, and would never stay in school long enough to develop the maturity and experience like Ron Baker’s, or Cleanthony Early’s. The leadership just wasn’t there, and because it’s Calipari and because it’s Kentucky, it never will be. Right, national media? Right?!?

Wrong. Kentucky came out in the second half and tore those recaps into confetti, not only withstanding Wichita State’s punches, but delivering ones of their own. The freshmen were no longer freshmen–down the stretch, they played with the poise of seniors, sinking free throws and tightening the noose on defense. A very good Wichita State team gave Kentucky their best shot, and unbelievably, Kentucky responded, coming together as the team we always knew they could be.

Getty Images

Getty Images

After the game, Willie Cauley-Stein said that three weeks ago, Kentucky would not have won this game. Since the regular season ended, the Cats have undergone an unbelievable transformation, bouncing back from their mistakes faster, and creating plays instead of waiting for them to happen. Suddenly, all those struggles Kentucky went through are actually helping them, as Cal said in the postgame press conference:

“You have to understand again, they have been through so much. They have been attacked, they have been bludgeoned, they can’t play, they’re not a team, you can’t do it this way. But they stayed together. It makes you strong. It makes you tough as nails. And we just hung around.”

It all starts with the player that many thought wouldn’t even play tonight. Sore elbow and all, Andrew Harrison stepped up and led the team, sinking shots and crucial free throws with the poise of a pro. Andrew admitted that he was close to not playing because of the pain, but fought through it because he “just had to”:

“Yeah, I wasn’t going to play at first, but I felt like I just had to. And I fought through it. The elbow, once you get your adrenaline flowing, it felt fine, but it was still a little painful.”

You couldn’t tell by his actions. Andrew finished with 20 points off 6-9 shooting from the floor and 7-9 from the free throw line. His brother Aaron wasn’t too shabby either, nailing some threes when the Cats needed the most. Those two have endured enormous scrutiny since coming to UK, and only in the postseason say they’re finally having fun. Had Andrew not played today, this would be a very different recap. He’s the leader this team needs.

Andrew’s leadership was essential, but Julius Randle’s presence in the second half was huge. After scoring only two points in the first half, Randle went to work, finishing with 13 points and ten rebounds. He had more offensive rebounds (5) and second-chance points (6) than the entire Wichita State team. He also had a career-high six assists, a very encouraging stat and one that speaks to how well Kentucky played down the stretch. Cal admitted that he’s struggled with coaching Andrew and Julius at times this season, but now, we’re finally seeing what happens when they buy in.

All season long, this team has been burdened with unreasonably high expectations, and only in the postseason, when it’s either win or go home, have they been able to focus on what matters. Willie Cauley-Stein said that when the buzzer sounded this afternoon, “it felt like five million pounds came off our shoulders.” Kentucky didn’t just beat a good team tonight, they beat a great one, and with that, confidence will continue to grow. Andrew said that the win was big because it was a validation of all the hard work they’ve done. Julius said it was proof that what they’re doing is working:

“All of the adversity we have been through all season, just to see us coming together as a team and getting better each game, and finally get a big win like that, just enjoyed it. Everybody was happy and we just have to keep building on it.”

One of Cal’s most popular phrases lately has been how far this team still has to go. Before today, that comment terrified me. After today, it excites me. Kentucky went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the country today and won. You’re telling me this story gets even better??

If you forgot just how unbelievable the game was, watch the highlights.

What better twist than playing your arch rival in the Sweet 16? When the brackets came out, we saw the matchup with Louisville looming, and now it’s here. Defending national champs against last year’s defending champs. The last team to beat Louisville in the tournament? Kentucky. For the second game in a row, the pressure may be off the Cats again; they’ve beaten the Cards once this season. The matchups are still in our favor. As Willie Cauley-Stein said after the game, “I feel like we were a lot better than them then,” and this team’s ten times better than they were on December 28th. The Cats are riding a freight train of momentum into Indy, and with this win, I’m not sure they can be stopped.

It’s gonna be one hell of a week, folks.


CBS Puts UK on Upset Alert

My thoughts exactly.

My thoughts exactly.

After the dust settled in round one without any significant upsets, people are clamoring for madness.

While searching for potential upsets, the Cats are low-hanging fruit.  Playing against the supposed “greatest miss-seed in tournament history,” Kyle Boone of CBS makes the Shockers’ case for a Sunday afternoon upset.

It wasn’t easy, but the Wichita State Shockers advanced past No. 7 seed Dayton in round one. Thing is, a close result against the best team in the A-10 doesn’t concern me. I’m looking at Wichita State, a team that boasts a top-20 offense and defense, and I’m thinking this is the most well-rounded team Gregg Marshall has ever coached.

As I’m sure most people remember, in 2015 the Shockers were a No. 1 seed that landed in the same pod as an 8-seed Kentucky team that made a run to the national title game, handing Wichita State its first loss of the season and in heart-breaking fashion in the process. A win here for Wichita State as the lower seed would be the ultimate revenge, and it certainly could happen. The Shockers, as you’ve probably heard by now, are not a 10-seed — except on paper.

The most well-rounded team Gregg Marshall has ever coached?  I know he can’t be forgetting the undefeated team with three NBA players on the roster, because that’s what the second paragraph is about, but to say the team that should’ve lost to Dayton is that good is hyperbole.

Even though many people will call for the Cats’ upset, I’m not buying it.  After all, Wichita isn’t even a state.

[CBS Sports]


How Edrice Adebayo Became Bam

How Edrice Adebayo Became Bam

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To start the season, Edrice Adebayo epitomized the cliche, “Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane.”

Adebayo’s resemblance to Dwight Howard and his onomatopoetic nickname fooled us all.  “Bam” came to Kentucky built like the NBA All-Star, but mostly on paper, carrying a generous 6’1o” height with a wide, muscular frame.  Adebayo’s experience was limited, playing the smallest division of North Carolina basketball for his first three years of high school.

The early box scores reflected his raw talent.  In the 2016 calendar year, he recorded double-digit rebounds just three times.  Offensively, he scored points, but mostly from dunks.  Defensively, he struggled to balance playing physical and fouling.

Like most Calipari post players, he needed time to develop.  It’s safe to say that’s happened.

Last night he hauled in 18 rebounds, the most by a UK player in the NCAA Tournament since the 50s.  In the last ten games, Adebayo averages 14.4 points and 11 rebounds per game while shooting 63 percent from the field.  In his last eight games, Bam has four double-doubles, snapping a skid of more than two months without a double-double.

Bam has developed into the player we all thought he could be, but how did he get here?

Conditioning

Before getting into the X’s and O’s of fundamental basketball, all of his improvements are possible because Bam is now in shape.  Most mistakes in basketball happen because you don’t move your feet.  You don’t move your feet because when you get tired, you get lazy.  It’s now rare to see Adebayo make a lazy mistake because he dropped ten pounds and quit ordering late night Insomnia Cookies.

A Reliable Right Hand Hook

The greatest fallacy about post players is the belief that they need an arsenal of weapons to score.  In reality, you only need one go-to move.  Bam has found it with the simple hook shot.  He struggled at the beginning of the year to find his touch, but he’s finally found a soft sweet spot that gives the ball a chance to go in, even if it isn’t perfectly executed.

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Patience in the Post

In the post, you gotta play fast. If you do not have a move ready before you catch the ball, the double-team is already there.  You clearly see that in the GIF above, but you can’t do that every time.  Like everything in life, there must be balance.

Earlier in the season, Bam would’ve gotten antsy with a one-on-one matchup in the post.  Instead, he used a pass fake to keep the double-team away long to drop-step a foot away from the bucket.

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That was fine, but this is beautiful.

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With the floor completely isolated, he immediately attacks preseason SEC Player of the Year Moses Kingsley, but Adebayo doesn’t get too ahead of himself.  The rip puts Kingsley on his heels and the extra head fake provides enough pause to get an easy left-handed look.

Attacking Out of the Pick-and-Roll

Kentucky’s improved play out of the pick-and-roll can primarily be attributed to the decision-making of the guards, but as my sixth grade math teacher always told me before filling out a detention slip, “it takes two to  tango.”  Even in the smallest of windows, Adebayo remains aggressive and attacks the rim with a leap of faith, relying on his guard to guide him perfectly to the bucket.

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Rebounding with Two Hands

This sounds silly, like telling a wide receiver to catch a football, but they still drop passes.  The best rebounders attack the ball in the air with two hands.

Using two hands is one big reason why Bam is better on the boards, but it’s a small piece to the puzzle.  As the big guy in a small league, he didn’t have to learn the art of rebounding in high school.  He was bigger than everybody, so he got the ball.  Bam is learning how to anticipate where the ball will bounce off the rim, an under-appreciated nuance of the game.

Using his Feet in Post Defense

Just like post offense, most of the work happens before the opponent gets the ball.  Here’s what happened when Bam did not do enough before Kingsley got the ball.

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Kingsley caught the ball on the block, WAY too deep, guaranteeing either a layup or a foul.

The next time down the floor, Bam would not let him get near the block.  When Kingsley tried to take a step to post-up Bam near the lane-line, he got pushed to the floor.  When Kingsley got up, Bam made him go up the lane, away from the basket to open up a passing lane.  When Kingsley eventually got back to the low block, Bam’s hard deny made the guard look elsewhere, ending the possession with a missed bucket.

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In conclusion, this is Bam at his best.

He used his lower body to force Kingsley to catch the pass five feet from the paint.  When Kingsley got his upper body involved, Bam kept his hands (and head) back.  Earlier in the year, he might’ve used his hands and got called for a foul.  Instead, Adebayo’s straight-up defense forced Kingsley to try to score over him.  While contemplating the move, it gave De’Aaron Fox enough time to dig the ball out and create a turnover.

bam-defense-3

Bam Adebayo has transformed into a complete post player.  He can still make an arena roar with a powerful, posterizing dunk, but that’s not what makes him a great post.  His fundamental, hands-off defense gives up nothing easy, while a balanced offensive attack keeps his opponent guessing and forces double teams.

It’s safe to say, Edrice Adebayo has brought the Bam to Kentucky.


Wichita State Player Calls Out Bam Adebayo

Wichita State Player Calls Out Bam Adebayo

Jeff Roberson | AP

Jeff Roberson | AP

The first shot has been fired.

While meeting with the media, Wichita State junior forward Darral Willis Jr. was asked about Bam Adebayo, specifically his 18-rebound performance from a night ago.

“That’s getting shut down tomorrow,” Willis Jr. told T.J. Beisner.

Willis Jr. is the Shockers’ third-leading scorer, averaging 10.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.  Last night he scored 4 points in 14 minutes.

The guy who scored four points last night is talking trash to Kentucky?

bold-strategy-dodgeball


Everything John Calipari Said at Today’s Press Conference

Everything John Calipari Said at Today’s Press Conference

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Q. John, how late did you state up last night, and how do you feel about two games within less than 48 hours?
COACH CALIPARI: Last night, looking at my watch is why that I had the response I had. Right now, I’m just worried about coaching my team in this next game. They probably didn’t get to bed until 1:00 in the morning either. Ours was a little bit later than that.

Two good teams going at each other. Should be interesting.

Q. Most observers, when they think about this matchup, of course they think about the game three years ago. What do you remember most about that game, other than winning it?
COACH CALIPARI: It was a long time ago, and I haven’t watched it. I watched it after the game. I know Julius Randle was really big in that game, if I remember right, but a lot of players played well. Their team played well. They had the last shot to win the game, so it was a good battle.

Q. John, Gregg said he showed that tape to this group of Wichita State players to just show them what it’s like to go against a Kentucky team and Kentucky bigs, even though the players are different. What are the chances you could do that to show what a Wichita State team coached by Gregg Marshall is like?
COACH CALIPARI: There’s all kind of ways of doing this, and it’s just not something I would do because the players are all different. And I’m just worried about us playing at our best. We’re going to have to have a heck of a game to win the game, we know that, and play better than we played yesterday to win the game.

They’re talented. They’re big. They’re physical. They’re strong. They’re veterans. Good team.

You can read the rest after the jump, or just watch the video below. 

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The UK managers need your help in the 2017 Manager Games

The UK managers need your help in the 2017 Manager Games

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Big Blue Nation, we control the online polls and some of our own need our help in an online vote today.

The UK basketball managers are a No. 14 seed in the 2017 Manager Games and they are in a tough second round matchup with the Michigan managers. You can help your fellow Wildcats advance by voting in the Twitter poll below, so do it!

The UK managers advanced to the second round by upsetting No. 3 Louisville in the first round. If we can somehow carry them all the way to the Final Four, they will be flown out to Phoenix to compete (play actual basketball) in the Manager Games Final Four.

Help them out, BBN!


Calipari says his team can’t afford “gaps” tomorrow

Man, how long has it been since you’ve been to a Gap? Same.

Coming out of the SEC Tournament, everyone hoped Kentucky had put its bouts on inconsistency behind them, but last night vs. Northern Kentucky, they reared their ugly head again. Today, John Calipari said his team can’t afford any “gaps” if they hope to knock off Wichita State tomorrow.

“Our team has gotten better,” Cal said. “We really have. But still, there are gaps. And if you have a gap against this team, it will be bam, bam, bam, bam, time-out. What just happened to us? Let’s get this back in order.”

“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.”

What does Wichita State do that worries Cal? Rebound, rebound, rebound.

“I’ve watched four tapes of theirs. 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.

Also, get physical.

“They also are not afraid to go inside. They’ll be physical when you drive. I mean, you’re not getting a clear drive. You’re going to have a body on you, something on you.”

Clearly, judging by Wichita State’s remarks today, they’re not intimidated by the Cats at all; Calipari welcomes that in hopes it will bring out the competitive edge in his own group.

“It’s the kind of game that’s just a competitive, 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. Let’s see what we are at that point.”


Calipari blasts fifth-year transfer rule (and in turn, Louisville?)

Damion Lee at Drexel

Damion Lee at Drexel

Ask the average Joe what the problem is with college basketball and they’ll say the one-and-done rule; ask John Calipari and he’ll say the fifth year transfer rule, which has led to an epidemic of players leaving mid-major schools for more elite programs, which in turn leaves those mid-major schools (and their coaches) in a lurch.

“What’s happened right now, the fifth-year transfer has changed and made it tough for some of those schools that are building. It hasn’t affected Gonzaga. It hadn’t affected Wichita. It hadn’t affected some of the other schools. But the reality of it is that’s the issue, and I wish we could deal with it. It’s just guys are losing their best players their fifth year. Guys are losing jobs because kids are leaving and going to a major school.”

One of those guys who lost his job? Calipari’s good friend Bruiser Flint, whom Drexel fired last March, one year after his star player Damion Lee transferred to Louisville for his fifth year of eligibility. Flint, who was Drexel’s all-time winningest coach, has spent some time with Calipari this year, and clearly, Calipari has strong feelings about this issue.

“I just can’t imagine we can’t come up with a solution that you have to sit out. If you transfer, you sit out. It’s just what it is. I mean, whether you graduated or not, you sit out. From what I understand, there are programs that have the names of all the kids that have a chance of transferring and playing right away. Who can we grab out of that? Come on.”

From what I understand, Louisville has a track record of taking fifth-year transfers (including the aforementioned Lee and Trey Lewis last season), making this a not so subtle shot by Cal in Rick’s general direction.

“The problem is those kids play for a coach whose job may be on the line. So you take those kids and now all of a sudden, that guy loses his job. I don’t think it says the right thing to the kids. I know it’s not right for coaching.”

“But we’ll be mad about one and done. Really?”


The Wildcats Won’t Talk Trash to Wichita

NKU-0825

Wichita State spent their afternoon talking about Kentucky.  Kentucky spent their afternoon talking about Kentucky.

“I don’t know too much about Wichita State,” Isaiah Briscoe said.  “Our concern is us. We focus on us. As long as we go out there, play with energy, play hard and play Kentucky basketball, I think we’ll have a great chance to win.”

Briscoe was not alone.  Senior Derek Willis explained why they don’t get wrapped up in their opponent.

“We don’t even get to see a game. Parts of what you do watch doesn’t even factor in on how you can form an opinion on someone.  Like I said, just worry about ourselves and worry about what we’ve got to get done.”

Wichita State’s approach is much different.  They re-watched the entire film from the 2014 NCAA Tournament game.  During today’s interview process, Bam Adebayo’s name came up on numerous occasions.

While discussing Adebayo, junior forward Darral Willis Jr. said “that’s getting shut down tomorrow,” and his coach seemed to agree.

“We have a three-headed monster at the five,” Gregg Marshall said at the podium.  “So we’re going to keep those guys fresh. Bam, I’m sure he’s in great shape, but he’s going to need to be in great shape tomorrow.”

Like his teammates, Bam Adebayo hasn’t paid much attention to Wichita State.  When reporters told him what was said, he laughed.

“I’ve got to go out there and play hard and stick with my teammates. They’ve got confidence, and we’ve got high confidence too,” Adebayo said.  “I just go out and play my game, have fun with my teammates, just listen to Cal and listen to my teammates.”

Kentucky will not conform, avoiding any confrontation with bulletin board material.  It’s shocking that Wichita State is using talk trash before their second round game.  The last time a team tried to do that it did not end well.

See everything the Cats had to say after the jump. 

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Photos from the Saturday locker room scene

Photos from the Saturday locker room scene

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Today’s media availability in the UK locker room was a big ol’ waste of time. We were in there at 1 a.m. last night asking the same questions and nothing changed between then and now, except a little bit of sleep for everyone. But, the NCAA makes us do it and I’m a company man with a commitment to my craft, so I went. And it was pointless. So here are some pictures…

The team shoe bag…

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The team foam rollers…

 

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The team spoons and team granola bars and team fruit and team chafer thing…

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The team rebounder…

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The team…um… madness of reporters trying to ask the same questions over and over and over…

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The team managers…

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And as a bonus, here is Isaiah Briscoe admitting to leaving the team HDMI cable back in Lexington…


That Stupid Big Ten School Knocked Villanova Out of the Tournament

@YahooSports

@YahooSports

After an uneventful first round, we finally have our first major upset of the NCAA Tournament.  Villanova, the defending National Champs and No. 1 overall seed, will not make it to the second weekend of the tournament.

The Wildcats tied it up with 37 seconds left, but missed the second free throw to take the lead.  Then one guy from that one stupid team took a page out of MJ’s book with the fake spin move to terminate Villanova (I’d post the video but CBS/NCAA stink, so click here to see it on Twitter).

Of all the teams to pull off the unbelievable upset, why did it have to be this one?


Calipari confirms Malik Monk missed practice because of lower back bruise

monk

In today’s press conference, John Calipari shed a little light on what could be bothering Malik Monk. After Monk fell hard on his butt vs. Arkansas, he had to sit out two days of practice this week to rest his lower back, which Cal said may have affected his play yesterday.

“Well, he didn’t practice this week because he had a lower back, butt bruise, whatever you want to call it. He didn’t practice for two days.

If you watched the game last night, you could probably hear and or see Calipari screaming “DRIVE THE BALL” at Monk throughout. Monk was 0-6 from the three-point line, so Calipari wanted him to take his game inside to at least get something.

“But what I liked was that he took 2s. He drove the ball. He made free throws. Because you’re not going to be on every game, so you just don’t take 12 3s, then. You’re not on today. Get the ball to the basket, get fouled, take 2s. He’s a great 2-point shooter. They’ll still play him to three because he can make seven in a row.”

Like all of us, Cal has faith that at some point, the shots are going to fall for Monk.

“He’s one of those ones you say, man, he’s due,” Cal said of Monk. “Let’s just hope he’s due. Come on, he’s had about three games where he hasn’t made some shots. …He’ll break out at some point because he’s too talented, and he’s got a great spirit about him.”

Let’s just hope it’s tomorrow.


Wichita State’s got one heck of a chip on their shoulder

Wichita State’s got one heck of a chip on their shoulder

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Rashard Kelly

If you thought Wichita State would come into this game with a chip on their shoulder, well, you were right. Junior forward Rashard Kelly came to the podium full of jokes this afternoon, starting with Kentucky’s “Nike Elite” status.

“They’re elite. You’ve got the top recruits coming to Kentucky. You’ve got the Nike Elite gear. They get all the Nike gear. They’re elite in everything. We are trying to be elite one day too, Nike.”

Ironically, when Gregg Marshall took the podium, he was wearing a Nike Elite t-shirt, which drew some chuckles from the media. When asked about it, Marshall joked that his team only has so many Nike Elite items and as head coach, he gets first pick.

“Yeah, we have some Nike Elite stuff, and I have to take the big stage in order to wear that. We’re excited about [the chip on our shoulder]. Our guys are not your five-star recruits walking in.”

As Marshall and his team reminded the media several times today, Wichita State doesn’t have any five-stars on its roster, and therefore none of the players ever drew interest from Calipari. When asked why Kentucky didn’t go after him, Kelly had more jokes.

“Probably because I’m not 6’11”, don’t have a 7’2″ wingspan, but it’s all good,” he said.

In turn, Kelly said he focuses on the little things, which teams like Kentucky often forget (his words, not mine).

“You just got to do the little things. Sometimes teams like that don’t focus on boxing out, checking down, defensive pressure, just little things that make us great. And I think that’s what makes us appreciate playing and working so hard more because we do little things that end up being a big reason why we win.”

I hate how much I like this Kelly kid. Wichita State ain’t scared.


KenPom’s No. 4 and 5 teams to play in the second round tomorrow because that makes sense

KenPom’s No. 4 and 5 teams to play in the second round tomorrow because that makes sense

Tomorrow’s No. 2/10 matchup in the South region may be the greatest second-rounder of all time if you take into account Ken Pomeroy’s rankings.

In KenPom’s new update following yesterday’s slate of games, Kentucky ranks fourth and Wichita State ranks fifth OVERALL.

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That doesn’t seem right.


Check Out Highlights from Last Night’s Game

Check Out Highlights from Last Night’s Game

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See how the Cats won with the following highlight package from KY Wildcats TV.