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NCAA Tournament Preview East Region - First Round  (13) Princeton vs. (4) Kentucky

Thursday, March 17 - Approximately 2:55 PM ET

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Last year, Kentucky played one pesky Ivy League team with a double-digit seed in the NCAA Tournament. In 2011, the journey through Bracketville begins for Big Blue with yet another contest against a team from America’s brainiest conference.

Kentucky will play Princeton in the first round of the 2011 NCAA tournament on Thursday afternoon at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa. The Wildcats are an automatic qualifier to the NCAA after defeating Florida in the SEC Tournament championship game on Sunday. Princeton, from the Ivy League, qualified for the tournament after defeating Harvard 63-62 in a one-game playoff staged last Saturday on the Yale campus. Douglas Davis won the game for the Tigers on a last-second buzzer beater that captured not only the nation’s attention, but the spirit of March Madness.

The Tigers are making an Ivy League record 23rd appearance in the tournament, and their first since 2004. They are 13-27 all-time in the NCAAs, with their last win coming in 1998 against UNLV. However, Princeton has not advanced past the round of 32 since 1967. Princeton reached the Final Four in 1965 behind All-American (and future United States Senator) Bill Bradley and won the third-place consolation game over Wichita State (thanks to 58 points by Bradley). The landmark achievement still rates as the best tournament finish in school history.

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The 2011 Princeton squad is coached by Sidney Johnson, in his fourth year. The Tigers average 69.6 points per game and shoot 46.4 percent from the field. They are led by sophomore forward Ian Hummer, averaging 14.9 points and 6.7 rebounds, plus senior forward Kareem Maddox, averaging 13.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Senior guard Dan Mavraides averages 12.7 points every time he takes the floor.

Kentucky is making its 51st appearance in the NCAAs, and is 103-46 all-time in the tournament. Last season, Kentucky, in its first season under John Calipari, lost to West Virginia in the Elite Eight, 73-66. The Wildcats have seven national championships, the most recent coming when they defeated a Rick Majerus-coached Utah squad in the 1998 title tilt. This year’s SEC Tournament title is Kentucky’s 27th, a full 21 more than anyone else in the conference.

The Wildcats’ 25-8 record includes two non-conference losses, both early-season setbacks to tournament teams. The first loss came against Connecticut, a No. 3 seed in the West Region, on November 23 in the Maui Invitational title game. The second body blow was absorbed against North Carolina, the No. 2 seed in the East Region, in Chapel Hill on December 4.

Kentucky averages 76.4 points, shooting 48 percent per game, while allowing only 63.8 points per contest. UK is led by three freshmen in scoring, with guard Brandon Knight leading the charge at 17.5 points per game. Knight is followed by forward Terrence Jones (16.5 points an outing) and guard Doron Lamb (13 points per game). Jones is averaging 8.9 rebounds per game, and Knight is averaging 4.2 assists each game night (or game day, as the case may be). Youth can be an issue for a team that is not tempered by senior leadership – that’s what will happen when a team plays stacks of freshmen the way Kentucky did last year. However, Mr. Calipari has molded this club into a cohesive unit this year, and it could be interesting to watch against Princeton’s distinctive style.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer
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