LEXINGTON – The University of Kentucky men’s basketball program extended its national record for most NCAA Tournament appearances to 56 on Sunday, as the team was selected as the No. 2 seed in the South Region. The Wildcats will play Northern Kentucky, the No. 15 seed in the region, on Friday in Indianapolis.
“I love Indy. What a great place to be,” head coach John Calipari said. “They’re Basketball Bennies up there. The greatest thing is our fans can get there and they probably already scooped up a ton of those tickets, knowing our fans. So, kind of like it.”
UK’s first-round game will tip shortly after the conclusion of the Dayton–Wichita State game (approximately 9:40 p.m. ET) on CBS. Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery and Tracy Wolfson will call the game.
Earning a No. 2 seed for the seventh time in program history, Kentucky enters the NCAA Tournament fresh off an 82-65 win over Arkansas (25-9) to seize the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship. The victory was UK’s 11th straight, which ties for the fifth-longest winning streak in the country entering the tournament.
“I think that they’re just starting to rely on each other and everybody’s (really focused) on what’s the job at hand and what is my role in this, what do have I to do,” said Calipari. “It’s hard when you get it started everybody’s trying to figure out where they are, and now we’re kind of coming together and we’re kind of linking arms a little bit and that’s what you want to do.”
The Wildcats (29-5) also finished the regular season with a 16-2 record in league play to claim its 48th regular-season league championship as well as the No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament. It was UK’s fifth SEC regular season title in eight seasons under Calipari.
UK is 44-10 in tournament openers and has won 23 of its last 24 first round tournament games. UK owns a 121-49 record all-time in NCAA action, with its .711 winning percentage the fourth-best in NCAA history.
Kentucky has only faced off against in-state opponent NKU once in the history of the two programs, with the Wildcats picking up a 93-63 victory on Nov. 10, 2013. The Norse will be making their first trip to the NCAA Tournament, having compiled a 24-10 overall record and winning their first Horizon League Tournament Championship by downing Milwaukee, 59-53. With the victory, Northern Kentucky earned the automatic NCAA Tournament bid in their first year eligible to do so after being granted full Division I status in August.
With a win over Northern Kentucky, Kentucky would face the winner of the No. 7 Dayton – No. 10 Wichita State matchup. Dayton holds a 24-7 record on the season and 15-3 in Atlantic 10 action. The Flyers are coming off a 73-67 loss to Davidson in the quarterfinals of the A10 Championships, 72-69, on March 10. Wichita State owns a 30-4 record this season, including a 17-1 mark in Missouri Valley Conference play. The Shockers won their fourth MVC Tournament Championship on March 5 and have won their last 15 contests. Kentucky is 0-1 against Dayton and 1-0 against Wichita State in the all-time series.
“There’s teams along the way that you look at and you say, wow,” said Calipari. “For us it’s just, let’s get started. Let’s get this first weekend and see what happens. I’m not looking ahead. You guys know how I do this. We’ll focus on this weekend and see if we can be the best of that group and if we are, we’ll move on.”
Kentucky’s open practice will take place from 5:10 to 5:50 p.m. on Thursday inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse.