On Thursday at 7:10 ET, they face the Davidson Wildcats, the Atlantic-10 tournament champs. The dreaded 5-12 matchup. Forty-seven 12-seeds have beaten 5-seeds (35.61%) in the first round since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. 12-seeds are 18-18 vs. 5-seeds the past nine years. For whatever reason (and there are several), a 5-seed in the tournament is the Russian Roulette of college basketball.
Kentucky should know this. In 1985, behind 29 points from Kenny Walker, they were the first 12-seed ever to beat a 5-seed when they downed a Detlef Schrempf-led Washington squad 66-58. When this matchup was announced Sunday, you could hear the slick in John Calipari’s hair dry up. No one wants to face Bob McKillop’s Wildcats in the tournament. Everyone remembers Steph Curry leading Davidson to the Elite Eight a decade ago. In the infamous words of General Akbar, IT’S A TRAP.
I know a thing or two about Davidson Basketball. Before their ascension to the Atlantic-10, Davidson played in the Southern Conference with my Georgia Southern Eagles. I vividly remember Dell Curry’s son torching us every time he showed up to Hanner Fieldhouse. I knew Bob McKillop was a very good basketball coach before the rest of the country figured it out. But now that the rest of the country knows who Davidson is, can they still surprise people?
Here are some things to consider:
– Kentucky is only a 5.5 point favorite, only Donte Grantham-less Clemson has a smaller spread among the 5-seeds.
– Since 2014 Kentucky is just 2-6-1 ATS and 7-2 overall.
– Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley: “Whoever is going to draw them is not going to want to see their name next to them.”
– Davidson is 10th in 3-pointers made per game at 10.7 per game, they are 24th nationally with 27.3 attempts per game and 28th in 3-point accuracy at 39.1 percent.
– Kentucky’s top five scorers are all freshmen and it might be Kentucky’s least-talented team, in terms of NBA lottery-level talent, since Calipari arrived. Meanwhile, Davidson has two Seniors in their starting lineup including leading scorer Peyton Aldridge and 6-9 Oskar Michelsen from Sweden. Experience matters in the tournament.
However, all is not lost for Kentucky. They are playing their best ball right now. They won the SEC tournament for the 33rd time Sunday. What Kentucky lacks outside the perimeter (334th in 3PA) they make up for inside the perimeter (6th in 2PA). They rank 29th in the country at defending the three.
Teams often go cold in the tournament. Nerves get to you. Davidson is making their first trip to the tournament in four years. While making threes is nice, you need a Plan-B when those shots don’t fall. Davidson is 337th in 2PA, they don’t have a Plan-B. This is truly a clash of styles.
Davidson ranks 18th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 115th in adjusted defensive efficiency.
UK ranks 25th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 23rd in adjusted defensive efficiency.
RPI: Kentucky at No. 10. It has Davidson ranked 47th.
ESPN’s Basketball Power Index: Kentucky at No. 21 and Davidson at No. 33.
Sagarin: Davidson No. 53 overall. strength of schedule No. 92, with Davidson 2-4 against his top 50 teams. Kentucky at No. 14 overall with the 13th toughest schedule. UK is 9-9 against his top 50 teams.
Ken Pomeroy: Davidson rank No. 43 overall, Kentucky is 18th.
10th nationally in made 3PG, 24th in 3PA (27.3) and 28th in 3P% (39.1)
F Peyton Aldridge (6-8, 225) 21.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG and 2.5 assists per game while making a team-high 76 three-pointers on 39.4 3P%.
G Kellan Grady (6-5, 195) averages 18 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 37.7 3P%.
G Jon Axel Gudmundsson (6-4, 190) averages 13 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game, 39.6% 3P%. From Iceland, early leader in the clubhouse for best name in the tournament.
11th nationally in 2P Made, 7th in FT Made, 20th in blocks.
F Kevin Knox (6-9 210) 15.6 PPG 5.4 RPG, 50.2% 2P%, 35.4% 3P%
G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (6-6 180) 13.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 5.0 AST, 50.2 2P%, 39.5 3P%, also a very good name.
F PJ Washington (6-7 236) 10.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 50.6 FG%