UK women's road to Final Four could be short route

jsmith3@herald-leader.comOctober 9, 2013 

Kentucky's women's basketball team might not have to travel far as it advances through the NCAA Tournament.

As a part of tournament restructuring, UK's Memorial Coliseum was selected to play host to the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament this spring.

Should the Cats, who return four starters and 10 players from a team that won a school-record 30 games and advanced to its third Elite Eight in four years, advance to the regionals, they may just have to drive down the road to Louisville for the next round.

The Cardinals' KFC/Yum Center was one of four on-campus locations selected to host regionals. The other three regional hosts are Stanford, Nebraska and Notre Dame.

If Kentucky were to advance to the NCAA Final Four for the first time in school history, that trip also would be a short jaunt to Nashville's Bridgestone Arena.

But if UK is placed in the Louisville regional, it also means UK most likely would have to go through the Cardinals, a fellow pre-season top 10 team, to get there.

Cardinals Coach Jeff Walz, whose team advanced to the NCAA title game last season, told a group of boosters on Wednesday that Louisville is excited for the chance.

"Any time you might have the opportunity to play at home to go to the Final Four, that's big, big news," Walz said. "Now we have to do our job and make it there."

Including UK, four teams from the Southeastern Conference were selected to host first- and second-round games of the tournament, which starts either March 22 or March 23. The others are Texas A&M, Louisiana State and Tennessee.

"I am thrilled to hear the NCAA Tournament is coming to Memorial Coliseum," Coach Matthew Mitchell said in a release. "This gives our players the incredible opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament at home in front of the loyal and passionate members of the Big Blue Nation. ... I know our fans would love to watch the Wildcats play in the tournament in Memorial Coliseum."

Kentucky is 64-3 in Memorial Coliseum over the past four years.

It is the first time in program history that Memorial Coliseum will serve as a site for a women's basketball NCAA Tournament game. Rupp Arena played host to the women's Final Four in 1986.

This season, the first and second rounds will be played Saturday, March 22, and Monday, March 24 or Sunday, March 23, and Tuesday, March 25, 2014.

The regional games will be either Saturday, March 29, and Monday, March 31 or Sunday, March 30, and Tuesday, April 1, 2014.

The Final Four is April 6 with the championship game on April 8.

Tickets for the preliminary rounds will be available for purchase no later than Nov. 16, according to an NCAA release.

Kentucky officials said they did not have any official ticket information available yet.

  Wednesday turned out to be a big day for Mitchell in more ways than one. His third daughter, Presley Blue, was born at 1:46 a.m., according to his wife Jenna's Facebook page. Presley was 6 pounds, 12 ounces.

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com

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