Kentucky Selected for Record 60th NCAA Tournament
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky men’s basketball team extended its national record for most NCAA Tournament appearances to 60 on Sunday, as the Wildcats were selected as the No. 6 seed in the East Region. The Wildcats will play Providence, the region’s No. 11 seed, on Friday in Greensboro, North Carolina. The Cats and the Friars will tip off at 7:10 ET and the game can be seen on CBS.
This is the second time that Kentucky has earned a 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament and the first time since 1982. That year, Kentucky played Middle Tennessee in the first round, falling to the Blue Raiders 50-44 in Nashville.
Kentucky finished the 2022-23 regular season with a 21-11 record, marking the 13th time in head coach John Calipari’s 14 seasons that the Wildcats have won 20 or more games. UK finished third in the Southeastern Conference with a 12-6 mark.
In addition to most appearances, Kentucky holds the NCAA Tournament records for most games played (182), while it ranks second all-time in NCAA Tournament wins with 129. The Cats own a 129-53 all-time record in NCAA action, with their .709 winning percentage the fourth-best in NCAA history (min. 20 games).
Looking ahead to Friday’s matchup, Kentucky is 48-11 in NCAA Tournament openers and has won 25 of its last 27 opening-round games.
Kentucky is set to play Providence for the fourth time in program history and the first time ever in NCAA Tournament action. Providence is coming off a 21-11 regular season, finishing 13-7 in Big East action. The Friars earned the fifth seed in the Big East Tournament, falling to No. 4 seed UConn in the quarterfinals 73-66.
Providence has been led this season by Kentucky transfer Byrce Hopkins, who is averaging 16.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, hitting 46 percent from the field. Ed Croswell is averaging 13.2 points per game and 7.6 rebounds per game. Noah Locke leads the team from the perimeter, hitting 70 3-pointers this season while averaging 13.1 points per game.
As a team, the Friars are averaging 78.1 points per game, hitting 46 percent from the field and 35 percent from long range. Providence is out-rebounding its opponents by six rebounds per game this season, averaging 6.7 3-pointers per game. Providence started the season 14-3, but has lost eight of its last 15 games, including three straight to end the regular season. The Friars did not play a Southeastern Conference opponent this season.
If Kentucky defeats Providence, the Wildcats would face the winner of the No. 3 seed Kansas State (23-9) and No. 14 seed Montana State (25-9). UK leads the all-time series with Kansas State 9-1 with the lone loss coming in the Sweet 16 of the 2018 NCAA Tournament in Atlanta, 61-58. UK and Montana State have met once, with UK earning a 86-28 win in Lexington in 2015.
- Public tickets for the first and second round games in Greensboro, North Carolina, can be purchased by visiting NCAA.com/MBBTickets. Fans will find complete ticket information for all NCAA sites, including information on the NCAA Ticket Exchange (NCAA.com/Exchange), the official secondary marketplace for authentic NCAA Tournament tickets.
- Kentucky receives a limited allotment of tickets from the NCAA. Eligible K Fund members who requested first and second round tickets in advance of Selection Sunday will receive a confirmation email on Monday evening, March 14 from the UK Ticket Office with information on whether or not their request has been fulfilled.
- More information about requesting tickets for all possible rounds of the NCAA Tournament is available here and will be updated as Kentucky advances. Those who are eligible to request NCAA tickets will be notified by email from the UK Ticket Office.
- Student tickets are not available for first and second round games, and information for later rounds will be available at UKStudentTix.com as Kentucky advances.
University of Kentucky Basketball Media Conference
Sunday, March 12, 2023
Lexington, Kentucky, USA
JOHN CALIPARI: Before I talk about the tournament, I’m going to talk a little bit, there’s two things. I named Jacob (Toppin) and Lance (Ware) captains. Now I never name captains, as you all know, but this is going to fall on enabling them to lead each other and to hold each other accountable, so those two.
Last week, we had four guys not practice Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, including Jacob, who had a hamstring. And so, they did not practice, the four of those guys. And again, this week I told them, You’ll either practice Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or you will not start and you will come off the bench if you’re a starter, and if you’re on the bench, you’re going to be deeper on the bench.
When you’re just doing scripting and you’re not competing, it takes an edge away. We have to compete before we go in. So those are just some things.
And someone said Jacob said he wasn’t hurt. Well, Jacob knows not to make an excuse when someone beats us. He knows. We give them all the credit. We don’t take away from their win, and we weren’t going to, and that’s why he said what he said.
But, like I said, we’ve got to make some adjustments on how we’re preparing and what we’re doing.
They have to practice all three of those days or just one?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, no, they’re going to practice. That’s what happened last time. They practiced on Thursday. So now we didn’t, it was, we weren’t the same. So, you’ve got to be here practicing or you’re coming off the bench and you’re not going to play as much, unless you get in there and we need you and you play well. Okay, we’ll leave you in.
But, no, I told them, Monday, Tuesday — the only guy I’ll give some dispensation will be Sahvir (Wheeler) because of the injury that he has. But I just told him, If it gets rough and you want to step off, I’m okay with you, because he wouldn’t in all likelihood be starting anyway. But he’s, he practiced a little bit but wasn’t live up in Nashville.
They were trying to find an angle for you guys and they found it, you get to play against Bryce Hopkins, your former player. I saw your big smile.
JOHN CALIPARI: Bryce is such a great kid and he’s a terrific basketball player, and he had an unbelievable year for them. So, the guys smiled, the guys that knew him. We all like him, a player out there that we enjoy being around. He is a wonderful person, and so is his family.
(Question about Providence coach Ed Cooley)
JOHN CALIPARI: Ed and I have known each other, we were assistants, well, I may be a little bit older than him, but he was an assistant as I was moving through the ranks at UMass, but I’ve known Ed, Coach of the Year a year ago, is a great coach, great communicator, motivator. He’s terrific.
After games like Friday it’s usually that this —
JOHN CALIPARI: How late? Tell me how late.
Pretty late. (Laughing.) Your team has responded time and time this season again after adversity. So just how much confidence do you have going into the post-season like this, that they can respond?
JOHN CALIPARI: I think they’re going to be fine. Look, when I woke up on Wednesday, I was going to hold all four of those guys out of that tournament, at least the first game. But the players wanted to play, they wanted to win the tournament, and you know what? They’re pretty — they said, Our fans bought all those tickets. We got to go play.
And I said, You know what? You’re right. But I will tell you that we have played well when everybody said they’re done, stick a fork in them. So, this is a team that if we’re focused and we’re gritty and we’re prepared physically and in the mindset we need to be in, you know. But teams have played out of their minds against us. They seem to figure out it’s Kentucky, and they make shots. They don’t — you don’t know where this goes, but all I can tell you is if we’re in the right mindset and we’re ready to go, I’m coaching a team I want to coach.
What do you see out of your team? Have you looked them in the eyes, with so much up-and-down all year, do you see a team that is finally ready?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, I don’t know that. But I’ll say this, we just have been inconsistent. But most of it has been from total focus, locked in, aggressive play to not being that way. And now all of a sudden, another team, you give them a chance and they come back and beat you and guys make seven threes who hadn’t made it all year and another guy’s four shots at the shot clock expires and they bank one and that kind of stuff does happen if you’re not locked in ready to get after somebody.
So, I think our — I told them downstairs, the inconsistency is what’s gotten us. And you know, being a little bit beat up and all that stuff has affected us. But we’ve overcome that. I just would like to have a full team going into this thing.
How surprising is it to you, given this is one of your more veteran teams to be up-and-down —
JOHN CALIPARI: They haven’t been there. This is all new to them. I mean, you’ve got a lot of guys that this is the first time they’re witnessing or being in a position where, all right, one of you got to step up. Last game, not only did we miss the free throws, no one stepped up. Like, somebody go make three straight baskets. We missed five straight shots.
So that’s important. We’ve got the guys. I sent them a text today that went: Why we’re capable of doing this. And I went through every player and what they add and what they have been able to do and where — all of them, including the walk-ons. And all that we’ve been through, there have been personal attacks, the vicious, some of the stuff, they went through a ton. Who is more prepared for us than us going through the toughness, the mental toughness, that you need to overcome some of this stuff.
You know, like I said, we’re, we understand the staff. Like, we’re going over there tonight. We’re going to do everything we can to prepare them. I named captains. It’s a different way of doing things. You’re more of a cheerleader. If you have to really get on a guy, take them out. Just take them out. You don’t — at times this year we were down to two and the rent was due and we didn’t have many guys, and so you’re begging guys and you’re being aggressive with guys to get them over the hump. Not now. Do what you’re supposed to do, get it done. You know what’s expected. Go get it done.
Along those lines, Lance is a guy from game to game may or may not play a lot, if at all. He’s a captain, though. What does that bring?
JOHN CALIPARI: It’s really simple why I did it. Because he is one that everyone listens to, and my thing to him is, when they know a guy is leading and may or may not play, yet he’s been the same, they will follow. They will follow. I’m putting this on Jacob because I need him to be more. And when he’s more, we’re pretty good.
And so now instead of the inward thinking, you’re a leader, it’s outward thinking. It’s about the guys. What do I have to do, how do we got to do this. And I think those two will hold guys accountable. But we’ve got a great group of young people. I’m just telling you. They’re, every day I walked in the gym I had fun with them. And I want to enjoy this run, and it starts with a very hard game against a really good opponent.
So, we’re going to focus on one thing, that game. They had to tell me downstairs where it was. I said, Where are we playing? They said, North Carolina. I said, Okay.
And then they had to tell me, Who is in the other two? Who is it? And so, to be honest, don’t ask me because I don’t remember right now.
But the first game and those, that little corner of the world is the only thing I’m worried about. I won’t watch TV. I could care what people say because a lot of it is their hope and not their opinion, and so why even — there’s — this is going to be decided on the basketball court around the country.
Any hesitation about putting Sahvir in there in that situation when he hasn’t played for six weeks probably at that point?
JOHN CALIPARI: That’s why he’s got to practice for three days and he’s got to show us what he needs to be. And I said, there’s nothing that would make me happier than him to impact a game, and then everybody say, man, if we had this dude all year, what would we have been, because when we struggled, a lot of it was guard play, and we had no, we were, you know, I tried to put Bruiser into the game, and he says, I can’t. I can’t run with them.
I seem to remember you haven’t liked your seed in this once or twice. Are you okay with the seed?
JOHN CALIPARI: You know, what I was looking at today more than anything else was what teams would be left out, you know, because I feel for those coaches and those kids.
So, that’s why I kept calling T.J. (Beisner) over, Who is it that’s hanging there? Who is it that’s not getting in? You know, I feel bad for Vandy and their team. They played great at the end of the year. I have no idea what they’re “NET” was what it was. I have no idea. But I feel bad for them.
But the teams that got in, I mean, there’s excitement. You could tell. Everybody’s juiced. Everybody’s 0-0. All these records mean nothing now. Everybody is 0-0. You take care of what’s in front of you. You stay in the moment, you enjoy this together, shut your phones off. You don’t need anybody else in our circle. They will want to be in there, oh, they want to tell you how to play. Just don’t, shut the phones off, worry about each other.
It seems as though to an untrained eye that the MO now is to try to bully Oscar and get him to retaliate. How do you keep —
JOHN CALIPARI: It isn’t. It isn’t that. You guys have watched him play all this time. Has he ever done that? So, what does that tell you that’s happening? Did you see the play where the kid grabbed him and held him? And, no, the one where they pushed two hands in his face when he hit? What do you want him to do?
Now, I know he’s 255 pounds. What are they going to do? Foul. Just call a hundred fouls. And they don’t. So, he finally had enough. And this is the nicest kid ever. But I said, it’s hard for me to say, What are you doing? It’s hard. I mean, I’m watching it too. He’s looking at me. I said I can get thrown out of the gym or keep trying to coach you.
You mentioned Vandy. Eight SEC teams in, including a couple first-year coaches. What do you think about that and the future of the league?
JOHN CALIPARI: No, you’ve got terrific coaches, you’ve got great facilities, you’ve got commitments to basketball that weren’t there. Now all of a sudden you’ve got a bunch of teams that, you know, it wasn’t what it was when I walked in here, where there were five or six teams that were practicing at the women’s gym. You had, you know, there was, they were flying commercial everywhere, including recruiting. That ain’t — no. We’re all on that level and it’s great. It’s great. It makes it — I tell you, I’ve been in leagues where you had to win every game and if you lost one game in your league you were done. Now think about it, eight teams in? Not only eight teams in, eight teams have a chance to win the national title. That’s the kind of league you want to be in. I would like more separation for us, but, you know, we’re still going to get the best players. That kind of stuff will not change. We’ve got good kids now, but we got a good group coming in, couple kids coming back. All of a sudden you’re looking at it like, okay, let’s just keep going. Good for the league though.
I know that you want it for the kids, but it’s been a while since you coached a team that won a game in the NCAA —
JOHN CALIPARI: You know what’s disappointing? What disappoints me is three years ago that — that ain’t a hundred years, three — we could have won the national title. And they cancelled the season. What happened last year, first time in my career. First time in my career. You know what? Hurt like hell. But you move on and you move to the next.
For me this has got to be a ball because they are going to feed off of me. If I have or listen to, you’ve got to win because — I know you won 9,000 games and been to Final Fours and you’ve got an 80 percent — but last year you lost, do you feel — I’m not, I got to, they’ve got to see me saying, he’s loose and ready to go. Because they’re going to feed off of me. And I’m excited about it. I’m excited for these kids and where they are. And me knowing, individual players, not just one, where they were and what we had to do to keep bringing them along. Now here they are.
I had one of the greatest responses to my tweet or text to the guys. And I read it to them and said, Now who sent me that text? And they went around the room and the kid that sent it, there’s no way it would have been him. And it was him. And they, one guy went, What? But it shows me the growth of these young people. That’s our job. That’s what we do here. Getting them prepared for the rest of their life and what they want to do. It’s been a good run and a learning experience. You learn. Sometimes when people show you who they are, believe them. Believe them.
What I would say in all this stuff, that by overcoming this, I told them, There’s nothing you’re going to go through that will be like this, and you did it. So, when anything hits you, you’re going to say, Dude, you should have been through the 2023 season, you want to know something.
And again, it’s, you know, I get it. We got the greatest fans. They travel, they’re into it. No one has the fan base that we have. And the other side of it is, we got the greatest fan base that’s really into it and passionate. You got a small portion of them that are really aggressive. That’s all part of being at Kentucky. But for those players to live through that, great experience for the rest of their lives.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
KENTUCKY MEN’S BASKETBALL QUOTES
NCAA TOURNAMENT SELECTION SHOW
MARCH 12, 2023
#55, Lance Ware, F
On getting selected for the NCAA Tournament …
“Yeah there’s been a lot of ups and downs this season, so for us to be in the tournament, have a seed like he (CJ Fredrick) said, everybody dreams of playing in the NCAA tournament, and the fact that we can do that you know we’re grateful.”
On watching the selection show and what goes through your mind …
“I think it’s more about when you get your seed, you worry about who you got, you can’t worry about other teams, you know like it’s March Madness. One play changes and that team isn’t even around anymore so you know, just kind of focusing on you and just, you know, worrying about ourselves.”
On playing Providence and former teammate Bryce Hopkins …
“Yeah, you know even though he transferred he still has the bond with us. You know that’s our brother for life and obviously he had a really good year. I’m a fan of him and the things he is doing at Providence and I’m happy for him.”
On the confidence level of the team right now …
“Not a lot of teams can drop two games and go on a winning streak or lose a tough game and turn it around and go on a winning streak. I think this team is resilient and with tough times you know we always seem to bounce back. It’s a journey, something we’ve been saying since the beginning of the year.”
#1, CJ Fredrick, G
On the selection …
“I mean it’s awesome. As a kid, you dream of playing in the NCAA tournament. It is not easy to make it, and we are one of the teams that’s competing for the same thing everyone is competing for, so it is awesome. It is a lot of fun.”
On playing Providence and former teammate Bryce Hopkins …
“Yeah, it is going to be fun, and we are really looking forward to competing against Bryce and seeing him. He was one of our teammates and we love him and like I said, we are enjoying and getting ready to compete against them.”
On processing the loss in Nashville and moving on …
“I mean, we have been here a lot before. We have always been able to regroup and gather after a tough loss and we just stick with each other, block out all the outside noise and just get back to work. That’s what we are going to do, starting tomorrow.”