East Regional action of the 2011 NCAA Tournament pits the fourth- seeded Kentucky Wildcats against the 13th-seeded Princeton Tigers in a second- round showdown.
Up next for the winner of this game is a third-round battle with either 12th- seeded Clemson or fifth-seeded West Virginia.
The East's 13th seed, Princeton is making its 14th appearance in the "Big Dance" and is 13-27 all-time in this tournament. This is the Tigers' third No. 13 seed and their highest since garnering the No. 5 seed in 1998. As a 13, they defeated UCLA in Indianapolis in 1996, and that may serve as a source of motivation despite the fact that the current players were quite young when that happened. Princeton is 25-6 overall this year and is coming off a dramatic, buzzer-beating victory over Harvard in a one-game playoff for the Ivy League title.
Seeded fourth, Kentucky is appearing in its record 51st NCAA Tournament and owns a 103-46 all-time record in the event. The Wildcats have won the national title seven times, most recently in 1998, and they are 40-10 all-time in their first game in a given NCAA Tournament. Kentucky most recently lost its first game in the tournament to Marquette in 2008, but prior to that setback, the program had advanced to the second game in 16 consecutive tournaments. UK head coach John Calipari has only lost his first game in the NCAA Tournament once, and his 25-8 Wildcats are obviously favored today. They are one of the youngest teams in this tournament, but certainly looked the part of a veteran group in an impressive SEC Tournament title tilt victory over Florida.
Kentucky owns a 2-1 series edge over Princeton, which includes a victory over the Tigers in the only previous NCAA Tournament meeting between the programs back in 1977.
Douglas Davis was the hero for Princeton in the victory over Harvard last time out, as his jumper at the buzzer punched the Tigers' ticket to the "Big Dance". Davis needs just three points today to become the 15th player in school history with 1,100 points, and he is a three-point specialist who is averaging 11.9 ppg. Dan Mavraides is the only Princeton player to have started all 31 gamers, and he provides 12.7 ppg. Ian Hummer is another player worth mentioning, as the consistent forward is tied for first on the team in scoring (13.9 ppg) and second in rebounding (6.7 rpg), and he has reached double figures in scoring in 25 of 31 games this season. Kareem Maddox is instant offense off the bench, supplying 13.9 ppg to go along with his team-best 7.1 rpg. Mavraides is the only senior in the starting lineup and he provides tremendous leadership.
For the second straight season, a tremendous group of freshmen leads Kentucky into an NCAA Tournament. The trio of Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb has been sensational and seems to get better with every outing. Knight is netting 17.5 ppg from his point guard position and has handed out 137 assists. Jones, an athletic forward, provides 16.5 ppg and 8.9 rpg, while the sharp- shooting Lamb is netting 13.0 ppg on the strength of his 47.2 percent efficiency from three-point range. Add junior Darius Miller to the mix (11.3 ppg), along with other contributors such as DeAndre Liggins and Josh Harrellson, and Calipari is certainly not short on talent. Knight scored 17 points to lead a balanced attack in the SEC Tournament championship game against Florida, but it was the stellar defense of the 'Cats that was the difference.
At least one 13-over-4 has occurred in 19 of the last 26 years, including three straight. Don't expect the Tigers to continue that trend today, however, as the Wildcats will get the job done by a narrow margin.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kentucky 75, Princeton 69