Cats try to prove doubters wrong against WVU



SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The Cats (35-2) aren’t sure who the favorite is to win the NCAA Tournament, and they’re not all that worried about it either.

A week after the tournament’s top seed Kansas fell to Northern Iowa, the Cats were skeptical as to if they were the new team to beat. Some said yes, some said no. Now, after fellow No. 1 seed Syracuse lost to Butler and UK dispatched Cornell 62-45 to move on to the East Regional Finals, junior forward Patrick Patterson said he still has a hard time believing the Cats are the favorites to win the Big Dance.

“I’m still just wondering how people think we’re the favorites when everyone thought we were going to be the first number one team out,” Patterson said. “Everyone thought that we were the most overrated number one team. Everyone thought all these negative things about us and now that the top two favorite number one teams are out, people want to put the targets on our back. People want to pretty much, I guess, jump on our bandwagon.”

When the NCAA Tournament field was unveiled on March 14, pencils and pens were grabbed around the country, and debate raged as to who would win the national championship, where the upsets were going to be, and which No. 1 seed would bow out first.

Freshman forward DeMarcus Cousins says he doesn’t feel the pressure because people have been doubting the Cats’ inexperience all season. Eric Bledsoe said after beating Wake Forest he wasn’t going to worry about it because he thought that may be a reason Kansas fell in the first place. Similarly, John Wall said on Friday they need to keep the same mentality they’ve had.

“They’re still going to say we’re inexperienced, we don’t have enough experience,” Wall said. “We just try and take it one game at a time, listen to the gameplan the coaches give us and go out there and play basketball like we know how.”

Against West Virginia (30-6) on Saturday night, the Cats will be playing for their season, and to end the longest Final Four drought in program history. UK head coach John Calipari will attempt to become the winningest coach in his inaugural season at UK in program history, and the Cats will try to move into a tie with North Carolina for the most NCAA Tournament victories with 102.

“We know we’re playing a terrific team who has had a great season in a great league,” Calipari said. “… They’re as good as it gets out there.”

The last time UK played a team from the Big East at a neutral venue was Dec. 9 at Madison Square Garden against Connecticut, a 64-61 win for the Cats. While the Huskies and Mountaineers play different styles of basketball, Cousins said the Big East conference was tough and physical as a whole and he expects another physical matchup Saturday.

When he was told West Virginia would bring multiple players at him to put bodies on him, he smiled.

“Bring it,” Cousins said.

With people still doubting the Cats as the favorites to move on to Indianapolis, Patterson said the negative talk they hear is a driving force for them.

“We use what people say about us as motivation,” Patterson said. “We want to prove the haters wrong. We want to prove to everyone who says this and that about us wrong. We believe we are a great basketball team. We know what we’re capable of. We truly believe we can win this national title if we continue playing better and we keep improving.”