In a surreal experience for me tonight, Hayley and I traveled to Coach Matthew Mitchell’s brand new house in Lexington to watch the NCAA Tournament selection show with the coaching staff and the team. From the get go it was hard for us college kids not to “geek”. Being around the team and people we have covered since day one this season in a casual environment was something we were not used to, but got to like very quick. It’s very apparent the second you walk in the room the team and coaching staff love each other. Everyone was all smiles and joking around, which was a great sight to see after the teary eyed emotions last time we saw them in the SEC Tournament. The culmination of the evening was when ESPN announced the Kentucky women’s basketball team would be a two seed in the NCAA Tournament, facing Navy in the first round in Queens, NY. The game is on Sunday afternoon at 12:05 p.m.
After cramming in some great food from BHG, Hayley and I took a spot in coach’s basement right in front of the team. Freaking out about not only where the Wildcats would get seeded, our phones were about to die, making it absolute crunch time to get the celebration on video. Luckily, the Cats were placed in the second regional of the bracket, and Hayley was able to capture the good times live…take a look:
As you can see, starting point guard Jennifer O’Neill was ecstatic. O’Neill hails from Bronx, NY, just an hour away from where the Cats will be playing their first two games. When talking to the media after the selection show, she simply couldn’t stop smiling; excited for the chance to play in front of her home state, and to show off to her teammates what it means to live the “New York lifestyle”. This years tournament should be highly entertaining to watch, as the one seeds all have tough roads ahead of them if they want to make the Final Four once again.
Now onto the Midship
menwomen. Navy is in the NCAA Tournament for the third time in three years by virtue of winning the Patriot League Conference Tournament as a two seed. They are 21-11 overall, and have no common opponents with the Wildcats this year. The Mids have struggled to score this year, averaging only 58.5 points per game, but their defense has been solid only allowing a little over 50 points a game. Coach Mitchell admitted he didn’t know much about his upcoming foe, but that him and his staff would do a lot of work in the upcoming week to prepare his team.
Seventh seed Dayton (27-2) and host 10th seed St. Johns (18-12) will also be in Queens with Kentucky. Should UK make it to the Sweet 16 they would most likely meet either North Carolina or darling Delaware, led by hot shooting Elena Delle Donne. If the Cats advance to the Elite 8 again, there would be the possibility of a repeat of last years match-up with the UConn Huskies. Both Coach Mitchell and A’dia Mathies thought that potential game would be very interesting, after the Cats fell short in their hopes towards a Final Four last season. Kentucky made this year’s mantra #40MINS in response to the disappointing effort against Connecticut, and a rematch would be very fun to watch with a more talented and more hungry group of Wildcats. A link to the full bracket can be found here.
The biggest victory of tonight’s selection show? Avoiding Baylor. Kentucky would not have to face the Brittany Griner led Bears until the championship game, and that is a huge advantage when you are trying to make noise in the women’s college basketball tournament. Seven total SEC teams made the field of 64 (yes it is still 64), making Kentucky’s success in the league even more impressive. ESPN has already done some analysis on this year’s tournament, and many view the Bridgeport section as the most talented portion of the bracket, and some have already picked UK to upset Connecticut in the Elite 8. More upset minded experts have forseen a Dayton upset over Kentucky in the second round. The Flyers will be upset with their seeding despite their impressive record, and play a very similar style of basketball to the Cats.
Stay tuned for more coverage of the women’s tournament as the week goes on, and get ready for Kentucky as they play Navy on Sunday afternoon in Queens. As always, Go Cats.