Kentucky vs. Princeton East Regional: About 2:45 p.m. Thursday at Tampa, Fla. (CBS-27)

UK determined to prove No. 4 seed wrong

Kentucky disappointed in receiving No. 4 seed

mfields@herald-leader.comMarch 14, 2011 

  • Kentucky's first opponent


    Record: 25-6

    Location: Princeton, N.J.

    Enrollment: 7,261

    Founded: 1746

    Nickname: Tigers

    School colors: Orange and black

    Head coach: Sydney Johnson (66-52 in four seasons at Princeton and overall)

    Conference: Ivy League

    Last NCAA Tournament appearance: 2004

    All-time NCAA Tournament record: 13-27 in 23 appearances

    Series vs. Kentucky: 1-2

Surprised and a little disappointed, but ready for the challenge ahead.

That was the reaction of Kentucky Coach John Calipari and his players after getting a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament even though the Cats beat Florida for their 27th Southeastern Conference Tournament title Sunday.

UK will play Ivy League champion Princeton on Thursday in Tampa, Fla. If the Cats advance, they are expected to face West Virginia, which beat them in the region finals last year.

No. 1 Ohio State figures to be awaiting the survivor in the Sweet Sixteen.

"I don't think it's personal, but, wow!" Calipari said. "I think our RPI is a seven, so a seven RPI gets you a four (seed).

"But at the end of the day, you're in the tournament and you have to win games. They can seed us where they want to seed us. We're playing well, let's go do it."

UK learned about its spot in the bracket on the bus ride from the airport to Calipari's house. By the time they arrived, the NCAA Selection Show was three-fourths over.

Not long after they sat down in front of the TV, Florida was announced as a No. 2 seed. Calipari immediately got up and left the room. Maybe he was going to get pizza, but he didn't look happy.

Calipari later said he was more exhausted than exasperated. "I'm really tired from (the SEC) tournament right now, so it's not like I'm disappointed. I'm just beat down."

Calipari did say he was "a little bit surprised" by UK's seeding.

Going into Sunday's SEC finals, he figured UK and Florida were both threes, or that one was a three and the other a four. "And whoever won the game would flip into (the three seed). They could easily do that.

"You can obviously see now they had us at two and four, and they didn't feel comfortable putting us in a two, even though we beat Florida twice in the last two weeks.

"I don't know what the criteria are. Our RPI is better, our strength of schedules are about the same, but they did not want to flip us."

Calipari added, "Good for Florida. Let them go win. I'm happy five teams got in from our league. We deserved that."

UK's players thought they deserved a higher seed.

"We're disappointed with being a four, but it's the NCAA Tournament, and not everybody's happy with where they are right now," Josh Harrellson said. "Florida's a good team, and they deserve being a two. We thought we'd be a three."

Harrellson said the Cats will use the perceived slight as motivation. "We'll come out and play harder and tougher to show everybody where we actually should be."

Darius Miller said the seeding really doesn't matter.

"We were kind of hoping for a three, but we feel we can play with anybody right now with how we're playing."

Miller also likes the possibility of facing West Virginia in the second round.

"That would be fun, especially for our returning guys, to get another chance at them," he said.

Brandon Knight said he thought because UK beat Florida, "we would've been either equal or a higher seed than them. But you never know how it works.

"It really doesn't matter, though. Winning the (SEC) tournament put our confidence at a high level. I think we're ready to make a run."

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