NCAA Tournament: A&T meets No. 1 overall seed
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Without even trying, Louisville is adding to Kentucky’s misery.
While the defending national champions are left to clean out their lockers after being stunned in the first round of the NIT — yes, the NIT — the Cardinals rolled into Rupp Arena on Wednesday for the NCAA tournament.
As the overall No. 1 seed, no less.
“You know how last year they said they hoped we’d win after they lost? UK fans don’t hope they win,” Kentucky fan Roby Thompson said, glumly, as he watched the Cardinals practice. “I don’t even hope they have a good practice today, to tell you the truth.”
The irony isn’t lost on anyone.
A year after the bitter Louisville-Kentucky rivalry took center stage at the Final Four, the Cardinals (29-5) begin their quest for a title in enemy territory Thursday. They face North Carolina A&T in the Midwest Region.
“Personally, I’m just happy not to play Kentucky here because I haven’t had a great success playing against Kentucky at Kentucky,” Peyton Siva said. “It feels good to have the No. 1 overall seed, and to play in a closer location for so our fans get a chance to watch us. We look forward to going out there and playing as hard as we would on any other court.
son. Needing a late surge to have a chance at defending its title, the Wildcats instead dropped six of their last 10 games. None was more shocking than Wednesday night’s loss at Robert Morris in the NIT.
Louisville, meanwhile, has recovered from its mid-season blip and comes into the tournament as one of the hottest teams. The Cardinals have won 10 straight, and their 78-61 thrashing of Syracuse in the Big East tournament finale was so impressive the NCAA selection committee made Louisville the No. 1 seed ahead of Indiana or Gonzaga.
“Sometimes fans really think that it’s like a huge, hated rivalry. It’s not quite like that with the players, I don’t think,” Louisville’s Luke Hancock said. “We really want to win when we play Kentucky, especially at Kentucky, but we don’t wish them to have a bad season or anything like that or not be here.”
This isn’t the first time the rivals have played on the other’s home court in the tournament. Kentucky’s title run last year began in Louisville.
But don’t forget about A&T, which vows to play hard.
Austin Witter was reminded of the task ahead, that no No. 16 seed has ever beaten a No. 1 like Louisville. He made a face.
“That’s just a statistic,” he said. “We’re still going to go out there and play hard, play our game, and no matter what, we’re going to try to get the win.”