The Cats’ road to the Sweet 16

Two months ago, it was hard to imagine the UK men’s basketball team would even be playing in the NCAA Tournament. With a 7-9 record, the mere idea of winning a game against one of the top-64 teams in the nation seemed almost ludicrous.

Fast forward to today’s matchup with Marquette, and it’s clear that the same postseason buzz of past seasons will once again have Cats fans on the edge of their seats when UK tips off at 2:30 p.m EDT.

Though the Cats are the No. 11 seed and will come in as underdogs against the No. 6 seeded Golden Eagles, fans around Lexington are yearning for UK’s first Sweet 16 appearance since 2005.

To do so, the Cats will have to upset Marquette and then dispatch of either No. 3 seeded Stanford or No. 14 seeded Cornell. The following is a look at the three teams in UK’s pod.


The Golden Eagles (24-9, 11-7 Big East) are no strangers to postseason play. Just ask the 2003 UK squad, which was knocked out of the tournament by the Dwayne Wade-led team that reached the Final Four.

But for a team that was picked in several preseason top-10 polls and one of the favorites to win the Big East at the beginning of this season, anything short of the Sweet 16 will be labeled as a disappointment to those surrounding the Marquette program.

The Golden Eagles have the talent to get past the second round, but they have yet to play up to their potential this season.

The heart and soul of Marquette for the past three seasons has been junior Dominic James, a scrappy, tenacious guard listed at a generous 5-foot-11.

James has slipped in recent years — he averages 13 points per game, down from 15.3 two seasons ago — and is an extremely streaky shooter, hitting just 41 percent of his shots.

If the Cats can keep the fleet-footed James from running and hold the Golden Eagles’ leading scorer, Jerel McNeal, in check, they’ll have a great chance to pull off the upset.


Without a doubt the best team in UK’s pod. It’s hard to see the Cats having a chance in this one, given the presence of Stanford twin 7-footers Brook and Robin Lopez.

Without UK freshman forward Patrick Patterson, expect the Cardinal to pound the ball inside if UK and Stanford meet in Round 2.

Brook Lopez is a surefire top-20 pick in this year’s NBA Draft, if he decides to go pro — the 7-footer turned down big bucks last year to return for his sophomore campaign.

Stanford doesn’t come in with an extraordinary win resume — it’s defeated only four teams in the NCAA Tournament field — but it has an impressive record (26-7, 13-5 Pac-10) and enters the tourney as the No. 11-ranked team in the Associated Press Poll.

If the Cats meet the Cardinal in the second round, UK will need a big game from sophomore forward Perry Stevenson, who remains UK’s only legit threat inside after the Patterson injury.


Don’t let the name, the No. 14 seed or the conference affiliation (Ivy League) fool you. Like most of the teams in the 64-team field tournament, the Big Red can hoop it with the best of the best.

Cornell (22-5, 14-0 Ivy) enters the tournament on an astonishing 16-game winning streak. The Big Red were a perfect 14-0 in conference play, and only two of those wins were by five points or less.

The Big Red will undoubtedly be substantial underdogs to Stanford, but if Cornell can pull off the upset, its second-round opponent had better beware.

Cornell’s main strength comes from behind the perimeter. Guards Ryan Wittman (47 percent) and Adam Gore (42 percent) can light it up from behind the 3-point line, not to mention guard Louis Dale, the Ivy League Player of the Year, can score 20 points or more on any given night.The Cats’ road to the Sweet 16