Kentucky draws tough East bracket in NCAA tourney

Huddled with his teammates around the television in coach John

Calipari’s living room, Kentucky freshman DeMarcus Cousins

demonstratively expressed his disapproval over the tough road the

SEC champions face to reach the Final Four.

“What?” said Cousins, throwing his arms in the air as some of

Kentucky’s potential opponents in the NCAA tournament’s East

Regional were announced Sunday.

The Wildcats (32-2) got the No. 1 seed on the strength of their

Southeastern Conference regular season and tournament

championships, but opposite them as the No. 2 seed in their region

is West Virginia, the Big East tournament champion.

After Ohio State was announced as the No. 2 seed in the Midwest,

opposite top-seeded Kansas, Calipari told his players: “We wanted

Ohio State.”

Along with seeing West Virginia in the same bracket, setting up

a potential regional final in Syracuse, N.Y., Calipari also

expressed surprise in some potential earlier matchups. Assuming

Kentucky gets past 16th-seeded East Tennessee State on Thursday,

the Wildcats draw a tough second-round game against Wake Forest or

Texas, which was at one time ranked No. 1.

“Our little corner of the world is hard,” Calipari

observed.

Kentucky’s players didn’t arrive for the beginning of the show

Sunday night, when they were officially named as a No. 1 seed along

with Kansas, Duke and Syracuse. The SEC championship game against

Mississippi State went into overtime, and the flight back from

Nashville was late.

Conference player of the year John Wall, a freshman considered a

likely top overall pick in the NBA draft, hit a late 3-pointer in

that game. He acknowledged it was a surprise to see the tourney

path, including a potential second-round matchup with the

Longhorns.

“It was kind of shocking to see them that close up in our

bracket, but we’re not going to complain about it,” Wall said.

“We can’t look that far down the road. We’ve got to worry about

that first game.”

The Wildcats’ other freshman star in the backcourt, Eric

Bledsoe, said the road would be difficult not just because of

opponents but also due to the schedule. Kentucky played three

grueling days in the SEC tournament and now plays again on

Thursday.

“We’ve just got to try to get our bodies in shape, get proper

rest and eat right,” Bledsoe said. “Everybody’s body gets

bruised. We’ve been playing hard the last few days. We’re just

going to try to keep it going.”

Although there were some quibbles with the draw, the team’s

veteran – junior Patrick Patterson – said this edition of the

Wildcats far exceeded his expectations.

Patterson will be playing in his first NCAA tournament game

because he was injured two years ago as a freshman and Kentucky

went to the NIT last year under Billy Gillispie.

“I thought we’d have a successful team, but I thought we’d

probably have a couple bumps in the road,” Patterson said.

“Earlier in this season, I never would have imagined us at this

point we are now.”