Now is the time to go out there and play

Complaints about seeding aside, Kentucky faces a tough Kansas State team in NCAA opener

By Brian Rickerd Published:

LEXINGTON — Notes and quotes as the No. 8-seeded Kentucky Wildcats prepare to open NCAA Tournament play against the No. 9-seeded Kansas State Wildcats Friday night in the Midwest Regional in St. Louis.

Tip for the game at the Scottrade Center is slated to be around 9:45 p.m., with the winner moving on to face either No. 1 seed Wichita State or the winner of tonight’s play-in game between Texas Southern and Cal-Poly.

Kentucky coach John Calipari was still complaining Monday — 24 hours after the NCAA Tournament selections — about the low seed of his 24-10 Wildcats.

I hope that’s the last we hear from Calipari on the subject. It won’t do any good. It’s not going to shape future policy. It only provides bulletin board material for Kansas State’s Wildcats.

It’s one thing for people in the media — the guys Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall calls “sheep,” to complain — it’s another for the coaches (who Marshall calls “wolves”) to do it.

I don’t especially care what Marshall thinks, either. His team plays in the Missouri Valley. Enough said. He should just let the Shockers’ apparent outstanding play speak for itself.

I do believe Kansas State is a good matchup for Kentucky, but there’s no need to add fuel to the fire.

I’m sure the subject of Kentucky’s seed will be front and center again when all eight teams in the St. Louis portion of the draw hold onsite press conferences Thursday.

The party line for Cal and his players needs to be: “All the teams are good at this stage ... just play.”

Leave the complaining to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. He’s also good at it. You can just imagine the outcry you’d get from Coach K if his team ever had to fly to a second-round site. The Blue Devils would have to mapquest the airport.

The ‘new’ Calipari
One of my favorite moments of Kentucky’s run to the finals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament came during a crucial timeout in the closing seconds of the Wildcats’ 61-60 loss to Florida Sunday.

Cal smiled as his players walked over to huddle on the sideline; he slapped hands with Julius Randle, and appeared to kiss Andrew Harrison on the forehead.

As if to say, hey guys, this is what you play for, enjoy the moment ...

That’s a nice way to handle any team, especially one dominated by youngsters whose previous idea of pressure was high school state tournament play.

KSU is good
Coach Bruce Weber’s Kansas State team is a good team that posted a 20-12 record in the nation’s best conference, the Big 12.

KSU is a good defensive team, but those Wildcats are at a big-time size disadvantage against Kentucky. KSU has just one player — 6-foot-11 sophomore Brandon Bolden — taller than 6-9.

Freshman guard Marcus Foster leads the Wildcats in scoring at 15.6 points per game, while 6-7 junior forward Thomas Gipson adds 11.8 points and a team-high 6.5 rebounds per game.

Kansas State has losses to the likes of Northern Colorado, Charlotte and Georgetown. KSU comes into the tournament on a three-game losing skid.

The Wildcats’ best wins were 74-71 over Oklahoma State Jan. 4 and 85-82 over Kansas Feb. 10.

KSU played one Southeastern Conference team, beating Ole Miss Dec. 5, 61-58.

Good guys
I like Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin, whose Volunteers match up with Iowa tonight in a Midwest Region play-in game.

Martin always comes across as a classy guy in the public eye, and he’s done a heckuva job taking over at UT three years ago for a hard guy to replace, the charismatic Bruce Pearl.

Pearl was fired for lying to the NCAA about some relatively minor infractions, notably holding barbecues for recruits. And, boy, is THAT a no-no in the eye of the NCAA. Maybe the barbecue sauce on the recruit’s face was too messy to ignore. The kid claimed the sauce came from Calhouns, a popular Knoxville restaurant.

But it’s hard to cheer against Iowa’s Hawkeyes. Their coach, Fran McCaffrey, is in Iowa City this morning, where his 13-year-old son Patrick is having a thyroid tumor removed.
Barring complications, McCaffrey will fly to Dayton this afternoon, site of Iowa’s game with Tennessee.

The winner meets No. 6 seed Massachusetts in the second round Friday in Raleigh.

Good hire
for Auburn

Speaking of Pearl, he’s a great hire for Auburn — a deal announced Tuesday.
If Pearl can’t win at Auburn, it may not be possible.

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  • Wolves have no interest in the sheep's concerns...