By Jamie H. Vaught
What about 18th-ranked Kentucky women in the NCAA Tournament?
Like the past three years, the Wildcats (21-10) will be playing at home during this year's NCAA tourney. They will play in the next four games at Memorial Coliseum (this weekend) and Rupp Arena (following weekend) until the Final Four in Dallas if they keep winning.
No. 4 seed Kentucky will meet 13th-seeded Belmont in the first round on Friday afternoon (12 noon on ESPN2) in the Lexington Region. The other Friday matchup at Memorial Coliseum has No. 5 seed Ohio State and No. 12 seed Western Kentucky.
“I think the kids are excited about the prospect of being in the Lexington Region,” said UK coach Matthew Mitchell. “We just met after the bracket was announced and the only thing that really matters for us is Friday and that’s the way you’ve got to go into it and look at it. We’ve got to get prepared because if you don’t get it done Friday, you certainly won’t get it done in Rupp Arena. You’ve got to take care of Friday and that’s what we’re worried about right now.”
Belmont (27-5) received an automatic bid in the tourney after winning the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. The Bruins, who use a 10-woman playing rotation, went 16-0 in conference play this season, scoring 77.8 points per game and limiting opponents to just 65.2 points per game. Belmont is outrebounding teams by 11.8 rebounds per game.
Interestingly, three former UK players -- Linnae Harper, Kyvin Goodin-Rogers and Jaycee Coe -- will be at Memorial Coliseum this weekend. Harper, a junior, is averaging 8.5 points and 5.0 rebounds for Ohio State, while Goodin-Rogers averages 8.0 points and nearly 4 rebounds for WKU. Coe has a 5.2-point average in a reserve role.
“They’re texting me right now,” commented Kentucky star Makayla Epps of her former teammates Harper and Goodin-Rogers after the Selection Monday Show. “They’re both really excited. I’ve seen Kyvin a couple times since her big move, but I haven’t seen Linnae. So real thrilled to see them both, but it’s all business whoever I’m going to have to see potentially.”
In this year’s NCAA tournament, UK is one of eight SEC teams. South Carolina, which earned an automatic bid to the tourney after capturing the conference tournament, is a No. 1 seed in the Stockton Regional. Mississippi State, Missouri, Auburn, Texas A&M, Tennessee and LSU are also going to the Big Dance.
UK Athletics Photo