Though Kentucky is the most talked about SEC (and overall) team in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament this year, the Wildcats have plenty of conference company. Five-seed Arkansas, nine-seed LSU, 10-seed Georgia, and 11-seed Ole Miss will all get their shot in the Big Dance.
Number one overall Kentucky is on a quest for perfection this year. The Wildcats are looking to be the first team to go an undefeated 40-0 on their way to a national title. The first stop along the way is a match-up with play-in winner Hampton. Kentucky coach John Calipari and his team will look to sophomore guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison to help get a win.
“[they] can pass, can shoot, can pull up over a smaller guard, can rebound the ball. They’re defending on the weak side better,” Calipari said.
Calipari will also be looking to forward Willie Cauley-Stein to keep playing to his full potential all tournament long.
“Willie, who had something to prove, that “look, I’m the best player in this league.” And I think with how he played it appeared that way,” Calipari said.
The Wildcats will try to get one step closer to perfection against 16-seed Hampton Thursday at 9:40 PM.
Arkansas, a five seed, gets its first test against 12-seed Wofford. There is a history of 12 seeds beating five seeds in the tournament; in the last three Dances, 12-seeds have gone 8-4 against five-seeds. But Arkansas coach Mike Anderson won’t let that affect his team’s mentality.
“I don’t look into the twelve, five seed,” Anderson said. “I look at two good teams coming from different conferences playing in the NCAA tournament.”
Coming off a loss to Kentucky for the SEC Tournament championship, Anderson and Arkansas are ready to get back on the court.
“Now you get into the survive-and advance-mode. We know the first game is very, very important,”Anderson said.
Arkansas and Wofford face off Thursday night at 9:50.
Number nine-seed LSU will face eight-seed North Carolina State in its first tournament match up. LSU has been led all season long by their big man tandem of forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey. But LSU coach Johnny Jones knows NC State has some good big men of their own.
“Their post guys are tremendous, very physical inside and have the ability to score the ball around the rim. [They're] good rim protectors as well and their depth is really good,” Jones said.
This one gets underway Thursday night at 9:20.
After not making the NCAA Tournament last year, Georgia grabbed themselves a 10 seed and a match up with seven-seed Michigan State. Bulldogs coach Mark Fox knows his team will have their work cut out for them against the Spartans.
“They’ve got a lot of characteristics that contribute to their success; rebounding the ball, they’re tough minded. I mean they have a very good team as we watch the tape,” Fox said.
He says the team will have to be great on both sides of the ball to advance.
“It will take a complete effort to win,” Fox said.
Georgia tips off against Michigan State Friday at 12:40 PM.
And rounding out SEC teams in the tournament is Ole Miss, who made an impressive 17 point comeback against BYU Monday night to get to the round of 64. The 11 seed Rebels will now face off against six seed Xavier. The Rebels’ Stefan Moody had a team best 26 points in that comeback win, and Ole Miss will need him to carry that over to continue on in the postseason.
Ole Miss and Xavier tip off Thursday at 4:10 PM.
We’ll see who moves on and who goes home from the SEC after the first round games.
Click below to hear sound from the story:
Calipari on the Harrisons
Calipari on Cauley-Stein
Anderson on 12 and 5 seeds
Anderson previews Woffard game
Jones on NC State’s Big men
Fox on Michigan State
Fox on the keys to the game