I must admit that when I saw the brackets and the Cats first round matchup, I chuckled. If you dont believe the NCAA Selection Committee has a sense of humor, then just look at the fact that Kentucky, a team that has struggled all season but did just enough to get in the Big Dance, was given UAB, an arch nemesis and one of the few teams to dominate the Cats in tourney play. It is a classic 8-9 matchup, contrasting styles of play and putting two teams with similar pedigrees in a made-for-tv matchup.
But wait just a second, if this is such a great matchup, why is no one and I mean NO ONE picking the Cats. On the “Mike and the Mad Dog” selection show on Sunday night, Pete Gillen, the former failed coach at Virginia said, “there is one STONE COLD LOCK in the first round….UAB over Kentucky.” I found that funny until I realized that he spoke for all of America. On ESPN, Jay Bilas, Digger Phelps, Dick Vitale, Doug Gottlieb and Fran Fraschilla all pick the Blazers. At this link on CNNSI, nine “experts pick brackets and every single one of them picks UAB. As a matter of fact, I can find NOT ONE PERSON in the national media who picks the Cats.
This to me, is absurd. Look, I like UAB and think they are a solid team. But this is not the group that beat the Cats two years ago. The Taylor brothers are gone, and Demario Eddins is hurt. That leaves Squeaky as the big star from that team and the only name that will ring in Kentucky fans’ ears. Plus, this is not the same Kentucky team either (which may not be a good thing). That Kentucky team two years ago liked to play strong interior defense and was hurt by teams with quick, athletic guards. This Kentucky team has poor interior defense and finds its strength on the outside, with guards who can get after the ball. Thus this UAB team plays more into Kentucky’s strength than the one two years ago.
None of this is to say that Kentucky will win. However I think if these teams played 10 times, the Cats would win 6. So how in the world can no one think it is possible for them to win Friday night? I dont like to play the “no respect” card very often, but seeing the media on this one, I hope Tubby does it. It is not often that Kentucky can truly be an underdog to a Conference USA team….we should use it when we can.