March Madness Round 64 Preview
Davidson vs. Kentucky
Davidson stole an NCAA Tournament bid from a bubble team with a surprising run to the Atlantic 10 tournament title and is looking for its first Tournament win since Stephen Curry led Davidson to the 2008 Elite Eight. Standing in the way is fifth-seeded Kentucky, which rolled to the SEC tournament title and hosts No. 12 seed Davidson in the first round of the South regional in Boise, Idaho, on Thursday.
Davidson picked up its first A-10 tournament title by knocking off top-seeded Rhode Island in the title game and cruises into its 14th NCAA Tournament with wins in four straight, during which it allowed an average of 62 points. Davidson won 11 of its last 13 games to come into March Madness hot and will lean on defense after forcing the Rams into 14 turnovers and 38.5 percent shooting in Sunday’s 58-57 triumph. That defense will have its work cut out for it against Kentucky, which is averaging 80.4 points over its last eight games and features four players averaging double figures in scoring. “Every situation and experience is new to them, so you don’t really know what they’re going to do, and we need as many of these kinds of things as we can going into next weekend,” Kentucky coach John Calipari told reporters of his young team. “So proud of them. Really proud of them.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, CBS
ABOUT DAVIDSON (21-11): Davidson will counter Kentucky’s young, balanced attack with some experienced scoring in senior forward Peyton Aldridge, who averages over 21 points and was named the co-Player of the Year in the Atlantic 10. Aldridge was held to 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting in Sunday’s win over Rhode Island but went over 30 points five times on the season, including a 45-point outburst in a triple-overtime loss at St. Bonaventure on Feb. 27 – the team’s lone setback in the last nine contests. Davidson can’t match Kentucky’s young talent but does have a freshman in guard Kellan Grady averaging over 18 points.
ABOUT KENTUCKY (24-10): Freshman guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the way with 29 points in Sunday’s SEC championship game win over Tennessee and is averaging 18.4 points over the last seven games. The Canada native is also emerging as a team leader due to his hard work. “He will miss guys sometimes, but he’s gotten so much better,” Calipari told reporters of Gilgeous-Alexander. “But it’s taken film and practice and talks and one-on-ones. The kid is a great kid in trying to do the right thing. These kids know, if a guy’s – it’s hard to lead if you’re not the hardest guy working it. It’s hard to lead if you’re not the first one in there. It’s hard to lead if you’re not a guy that’s capable to go on the court and win games. I’m not following you. Who wants to follow you? I mean, you’ve got to be that guy.”
1. Kentucky fell in the Elite Eight last season and last made the Final Four in 2015, which capped a run of four consecutive Final Fours.
2. Davidson bowed out in the first round in each of its last three NCAA Tournament appearances – 2012, 2013 and 2015.
3. Kentucky beat Davidson 75-55 in the first round of the 1986 NCAA Tournament – the only other time the teams faced off in March.