Matthew Mitchell on Rhyne Howard: ‘She has a whole lot of talent’
The University of Kentucky women’s basketball team has already had more than a week to stew over its quick elimination from the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
By the time the Wildcats tip off NCAA Tournament play either Friday or Saturday, two full weeks will have passed since UK played its most recent game, a 70-68 loss to Missouri in the quarterfinals of the conference tourney at Greenville, S.C., on March 8.
Whether such a layoff provides much-needed rest and rehabilitation after a long regular season or allows space for rust to set in is open to debate. Either way, Kentucky (24-7) positioned itself to at least make a little noise in this year’s Big Dance.
When the bracket is drawn for the NCAA Tournament on Monday night, Kentucky is expected to claim anywhere from a No. 4 to a No. 6 seed, depending on the projection service you believe.
Any team seeded No. 1 through No. 4 is offered the opportunity to host first- and second-round games. Any teams seeded lower than that are most likely hitting the road.
After the opening two rounds, the regional semifinals and finals in the 64-team tournament will be held in Albany, N.Y.; Greensboro, N.C.;, Portland, Ore.; and Chicago.
The Final Four is set for April 5 and 7 at Tampa, Fla.
Kentucky, rated No. 18 in the most recent Associated Press media poll and No. 17 in the coaches’ rankings, finished fourth in the Southeastern Conference with an 11-5 record. Its NCAA resume includes victories over South Carolina and UCLA, ranked No. 16 and 20, respectively, in the latest AP poll.
ESPN’s “Bracketology” projects the Wildcats as a No. 6 seed, opening in Raleigh, N.C., home of projected No. 3 seed North Carolina State.
ESPN predicts that Baylor, UConn, Mississippi State and Notre Dame will claim the four No. 1 seeds. It projects Louisville as a No. 2, and thus hosting first- and second-round games at the KFC Yum Center.
Kentucky is led in scoring and rebounding by freshman Rhyne Howard. The 6-foot-2 forward from Cleveland, Tenn., who was named National Freshman of the Year by ESPN last week, averages 16.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
Senior Maci Morris averages 14.9 points and shoots 44.2 percent from three-point range. Fellow senior Taylor Murray scores 12.5 points and dishes 3.8 assists per game.
Kentucky is returning to the NCAA Tournament after a one-year absence, when the Wildcats did not make any postseason events after a 15-17 record in 2017-18.
Prior to that, Coach Matthew Mitchell’s Wildcats reached the NCAA Tournament eight years in a row.
NCAA Selection Show
When: 7 p.m.