Sidelines with John Clay

NCAA links: Abilene Christian thrilled to be playing Kentucky

NCAA Tournament links:

Kentucky is the No. 2 seed in the Midwest, reports Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader. The Cats open NCAA Tournament play in Jacksonville on Thursday at 7:10 p.m. against Abilene Christian. If UK survives, it plays the winner of No. 7 seed Wofford vs. No. 10 seed Seton Hall on Saturday.

Abilene Christian is thrilled to be playing Kentucky, reports Stephen Garcia of the Abilene Reporter News. Said Abilene Christian Coach Joe Golding, “We’re going to get a ton of exposure just because we’re playing Kentucky. We’re playing one of the best coaches of all time, a Hall of Famer, the best players in the country. So, what a great opportunity for our guys.”

Kentucky has a manageable path to the Final Four, says my column. If seedings hold, No. 2 UK would play No. 1 North Carolina in the Midwest Region final. But North Carolina has a tough road, including the possibility of a Sweet 16 game against Kanas in Kansas City.

John Calipari was upbeat after draw, reports Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader. “It’s fine,” Calipari told reporters at his Lexington home after the bracket was announced. “I mean, I thought there’d be a chance to play in Louisville. But I thought it wasn’t slim. It was none.”

Ten hot tips to help with your NCAA pool, from Mark Story of the Herald-Leader. “1.) The bracket line where you are most likely to find upsets. In recent years, the famous “12 over 5” upset line has been superseded. While 12 seeds are a respectable 11-17 vs. No. 5s since 2012, that pales in comparison to what No. 11 seeds have compiled vs. No. 6s. Over the same time frame, No. 11s are 15-13 vs. No. 6s.”

The Midwest Region is a gathering of blue bloods, writes Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star. “Blue bloods are the favorites by seed in the Midwest Region. North Carolina is a No. 1 seed for a record 17th time. All three of Roy Williams’ NCAA championships have come as a top seed. Kentucky, college basketball’s all-time winningest program, is the No. 2. Kansas, second on that list, is the No. 4 seed.”

Wofford is headed back to Jacksonville, reports Todd Shanesy of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. “Oh, Jacksonville. Wofford fans know it well as the place of near-misses. This will make the Terriers’ third trip to Jacksonville in their five NCAA tournament trips, all in the past decade. They were there for their first berth in 2010 and lost to No. 4 seed Wisconsin, 53-49. They were there in their last trip in 2015 and lost to No. 5 seed Arkansas, 56-53.”

Kentucky among Final Four picks, according to SI experts. Various analysts picked their Final Fours and champions. As you would expect, Duke gets the most love.

Kentucky has a 24 percent chance of reaching the Final Four, according to Its numbers give UK an 11 percent chance of making the championship game and a 3 percent chance of winning the whole thing. Duke has a 19 percent chance of being crowed champs.

Kentucky got a great draw, says Rick Bozich of WDRB. “Official word arrived Sunday evening when the Wildcats were awarded the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Regional. Duke, the overall top seed, rules the East Regional. Kentucky did not get a good draw in this tournament. Kentucky got a great draw in this tournament. I expect to see the Wildcats in Minneapolis at the Final Four.”

North Carolina earns the No. 1 seed, reports Jonathan M. Alexander of the Charlotte Observer. “We have to respect everyone and fear no one,” UNC Coach Roy Williams said. “We have to be ready to play the first day. If you play your tail off the first day, perhaps they’ll let you stay around and play somebody else.”

Kentucky fans know who to blame, says John Feinstein of the Washington Post. “In all likelihood, only Houston stands between a Kentucky-North Carolina final. If Carolina wins, two things are almost guaranteed: Ol’ Roy will weep, and Kentucky fans will blame the refs.”

No. 10 seed Seton Hall ready to get back at it, reports Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press. “This is what you spend all that time in the summer for, to play in March Madness,” Willard said. “Even though the Big East Tournament was a brutal three days, this team has always bounced back after the tough losses and been ready to work. Their attitude today was really good. I think they’re ready to jump back in and get after it.”

It’s Louisville vs. Pitino in NCAA Tournament, reports Tim Sullivan of the Courier-Journal. Rick Pitino’s former employer plays Rick Pitino’s son Richard, coach of Minnesota, in a first round East Regional game. As Tim writes, the NCAA truly has a sense of humor.

Murray State gets a No. 12 seed, reports Dennis Varney of the Herald-Leader. “Murray State, which won the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament for a second straight season in 2019, was awarded a No. 12 seed and will face No. 5 seed Marquette in its NCAA Tournament opener on Thursday in Hartford, Connecticut.”

Duke will try to win the title its own way, says Luke DeCock of the Raleigh News and Observer. “Can you win a national title without being able to make an outside shot with any kind of reliability? With Zion Williamson, maybe you can. One way or another, Duke is going to find out.”

Tennessee will make the Final Four, says Mark Bradley of the AJC. “The key South game will be Sweet 16 match between No. 6 Villanova, which has won the whole shebang two of the past three seasons, and Tennessee, last seen getting run off the floor by Auburn. That was by far the Volunteers’ worst showing of the season, and it might serve as a tonic. They play enough defense to throw Villanova’s famous offense off-kilter, and they’re strong enough to outslug Virginia in a classic grit-on-grit final.”

Auburn pulled off terrific SEC run, says Ben Wolk of auburn “ Malik Dunbar laid on the ground covered in confetti with a cardboard cutout of the SEC logo. His smile, as it always is, was the widest of anyone in Bridgestone Arena. His small forward colleague Samir Doughty saw him laying there and jumped off the championship stage to join Dunbar in reveling in the almost surreal moment. Bryce Brown, not to be left out, dove in as well.”

The bubble bursts for North Carolina State, reports Joe Giglio of the Raleigh News and Observer. For the second straight year, the Wolfpack is left out of the NCAA Tournament. “They had so many great opportunities and did not win them,” Bernard Muir, the athletic director at Stanford and chair of the committee said on the CBS selection show on Sunday night. “So that was a concern for us.”

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader