No. 18 UK Selected to Host Opening Rounds of NCAA Tournament
Kentucky women's basketball team earns its school-record eighth straight at-large bid
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 18 University of Kentucky women’s basketball team has been selected as an at-large team in the 2017 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, claiming UK’s school-record eight straight appearance in the tournament. Fourth-seeded Kentucky (21-10) will face 13th-seeded Belmont in the first round on Friday inside Memorial Coliseum. The game will air live on ESPN2 (regionalization applied) at Noon ET.
For the fourth year in a row, Kentucky has been selected to host the first and second rounds of the tournament inside historic Memorial Coliseum. The games will be held Friday and Sunday. The other first-round matchup in Lexington features fifth-seeded Ohio State against 12th-seeded Western Kentucky at 2:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2. Ticket information will be released later tonight and available at www.ukathletics.com/ncaatickets.
The Wildcats earned a No. 4 seed in the event, marking the third time the Wildcats have been a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. UK has earned a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament each of the last eight years. The last time UK held a No. 4 seed was in the 2011 tournament when it played in Spokane, Wash., defeating Hampton in overtime in the first round before falling 86-74 to North Carolina in the second round. In the 2010 tournament, the Wildcats were a No. 4 seed, defeating Liberty (13), Michigan State (5) and Nebraska (1) to advance to the Elite Eight before falling to Oklahoma.
“I think the kids are excited about the prospect of being in the Lexington Region,” UK head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “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.”
Kentucky is 19-13 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, including a 15-7 record under Mitchell. The best finishes for UK came in 2013, 2012, 2010 and 1982 when the Wildcats fell one win shy of the Final Four. Last season, UK fell in the Sweet 16. The Wildcats are one of seven schools nationally to advance to at least five of the last seven Sweet 16s. This is Kentucky’s 14th all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Belmont (27-5) received an automatic bid in the tournament after winning the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. The Bruins went 16-0 in conference play this season behind 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. Junior forward Kylee Smith is the team’s leading scorer with 15.7 points per game and 5.1 rebounds per game, while three other players are averaging double figures. Sophomore guard Darby Maggard is averaging 14.4 points per game, while junior center Sally McCabe is averaging 12.4 points per game. The Bruins have used a big rotation as nine players have played in all 32 games.
Kentucky was one of eight Southeastern Conference teams to be awarded a bid to the NCAA Tournament on Monday evening. South Carolina earned an automatic bid to the tournament after winning the conference tournament, and 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.
Also earning No. 1 seeds are Connecticut, Notre Dame and Baylor. Connecticut and Notre Dame each won its respective conference regular season and tournament titles to receive automatic bids. The Final Four will be played March 31 and April 2 at American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas.
2017 Lexington Sub-Regional Schedule
Memorial Coliseum – Lexington, Ky.
First Round – March 17
(4) Kentucky vs. (13) Belmont – Noon ET – ESPN2 (regionalization applies)
(5) Ohio State vs. (12) Western Kentucky – 2:30 p.m. ET – ESPN2 (regionalization applies)
Second Round – March 19
Winner game 1 vs. Winner game 2 – Time TBA – TV TBA (Winner into Lexington Regional semifinal)