Cat Scratches
Interactive Twitter Facebook

No. 2 seed a badge of honor for UK Hoops

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
Kastine Evans.jpeg AMES, Iowa - During the season, coaches typically don't worry about their ranking. The belief is that rankings will all sort themselves out by the end of the year. In the postseason, that number preceding their team's name is a whole different issue.

For Kentucky, the No. 2 seed, which ties the highest seed in UK Hoops history earned in 1982, is a source of pride and honor. As UK head coach Matthew Mitchell says, the higher the seeding, theoretically, the smoother the path in the tournament.

"That's why you work so hard throughout the whole season," Mitchell said. "I'm really proud of our seed and what it stands for. It means we've been excellent over the course of the season. Now the challenge is to make it mean something."

Mitchell said two years ago the Wildcats were just happy to get into the tournament, much less be worried about what seed they earned. And you can't blame him.

In Mitchell's first two years at Kentucky, the Wildcats went a combined 33-32 and 13-15 in conference play. It all changed during Mitchell's third year though. With a small roster at his disposal during the 2009-10 season, Mitchell had to switch things up and implement his now well-known "40 minutes of dread" defense. Over the last three years, the change has seen Kentucky go 78-23 and 35-13 in Southeastern Conference play.

"It was that 2010 team that really just decided they were going to work extremely hard and they set a standard of work ethic that last year's team got close to and this year's team really worked extremely hard," Mitchell said.

On Saturday, that hard work will be put to the test in a win-or-go-home matchup against 15th-seeded McNeese State (4:20 p.m. ET - ESPN2).

In the SEC Tournament two weeks ago, the top-seeded Wildcats struggled in a hard fought, come-from-behind victory over Florida before falling to LSU in the semifinals. In Friday's pre-tournament media availability, Kentucky spoke about regrouping from that loss and preparing for a run in the NCAA Tournament.

"Going into the SEC tournament as the number one seed, we didn't handle the pressure that well," sophomore guard Kastine Evans said. "We played a bit on our heels in that tournament.  Having the opportunity to mentally reflect on what went well and what didn't go so well in the SEC tournament was important for our team."

While Evans says the Cats didn't handle the pressure of being the top seed well in the SEC Tournament, she's hoping the NCAA Tournament produces new fruits for their labor.

"Being a two seed is great for any team," Evans said. "It puts us in a great position for the tournament.  It gives us the confidence that others recognize our abilities and our talent.  You don't just earn a one, two, three or four seed from playing a couple of solid games. You earn a two seed based on your performance throughout the season."

UK is certainly well-tested. The Wildcats went 12-5 against opponents that made the tournament field, including a pair of wins over fellow No. 2 seeds Duke and Tennessee. Pair that along with its impressive seed, and Kentucky isn't just entering Saturday's game as a two seed, but as a confident two seed.

"I think (the two seed has) given us a lot of confidence going into (Saturday's) game and coming into the tournament," Evans said. "Coach hasn't put any pressure on us. He just encourages us to come out and play our game. Come out and play Kentucky basketball."

If they can do that, the Wildcats may just prove what a two seed is capable of.

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL:

Leave a comment

Recent Comments