Kernel sports staff predictions for UK’s NCAA tournament run


Kentucky head coach John Calipari and the basketball team watches the selection show. The UK men’s basketball team watched the NCAA Selection Show at John Calipari’s house on Sunday, March 17, 2019, in Lexington, Kentucky. UK is a No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region and will play No. 15 seed Abliene Christian in Jacksonville, Florida, on Thursday. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Kernel Sports Staff

Ahead of Kentucky’s first game of the NCAA tournament on Thursday, Kernel sports editors Erika Bonner and Chase Campbell discussed their predictions for the Cats.

What matchup does Kentucky want in the Midwest region?

Erika: I think an ideal situation for UK would be a matchup with Kansas. The Cats have already beat Kansas this season and know what to expect, and have improved a lot since then.

Chase: They want to see, in order, Seton Hall, Iowa State, Auburn. Seton Hall is a revenge game, Iowa State can get run over physically and Auburn has a shallow rotation. They’d be tired by that point.

Which team has the best chance of beating UK?

Erika: There are several great teams in the Midwest that would give UK trouble (cough cough, Houston, cough cough, Iowa State), but at the end of the day, I think UNC has a good chance of beating the Cats, given they both make it to the Elite Eight.

Chase: Wofford. Remember earlier in the year, when some players would just have magical games against the Cats? Fletcher Magee seems ripe for one of those, and what better team to do it against? Cats will have to be seriously on their toes if they play against Wofford.

Where will the Cats finish?

Erika: I’m going all the way and predicting they’ll go to the championship. I’m not so sure they’ll claim the title, but this Kentucky team is good and I think they certainly have what it takes to get to the ‘ship this year.

Chase: At least to the Elite Eight, and I like their chances to win the whole thing, so let’s meet in the middle and say they get knocked out in the Final Four.

Which UK player will be the “X” factor for them in the tournament?

Erika: Reid Travis. He played great in both of UK’s games in the SEC tournament, minus when he fouled out against UT (and UK fell apart). Which is why I say he’ll be extremely important for the Cats— his presence in the post is a must.

Chase: Ashton Hagans. A lot of the teams they’ll face have dominant guards (Powell for Seton Hall, Magee for Wofford, White for UNC) and Hagans can singlehandedly dismantle a team by shutting option No. 1 down. That’s his job.