Monday , Mar , 15 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Kentucky vaults from eight to one

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – The Kentucky Wildcats used a win over
Florida in the SEC Championship game to catapult themselves from being the
eighth-ranked team in the nation to the top overall seed in the 2004 NCAA

In all, Kentucky (26-4) came out victorious in nine straight games to leap
over fellow No. 1 seeds Saint Joseph’s, Duke and Stanford for the coveted top

“We’re very happy and excited about being a No. 1 seed,” said head coach Tubby
Smith. “I’m proud of this group and what they’ve been able to achieve
throughout the season. They’ve shown their competitive grit and moxie all year
long — a never quit, never-say-die attitude. That’s what has pulled us

The Wildcats play in the newly-named St. Louis Region, and will do battle on
Friday in Columbus with the winner of the play-in game between Lehigh and
Florida A&M.

Gonzaga (27-2) is the No. 2 seed in the region and will meet Mid-Continent
champion Valparaiso (18-12) in the first round on Thursday in Seattle, while
Michigan State (18-11) and WAC champion Nevada (23-8) will play in the
region’s other game in Seattle.

St. Louis region first-round games will also be played Friday in Kansas City,
as fourth-seeded Kansas (21-8) takes on Horizon League champion Illinois-
Chicago (24-7) and fifth-seeded Providence (20-8) meets Big West champion
Pacific (24-7). On Friday in Milwaukee, third-seeded Georgia Tech (23-9) will
face Missouri Valley Tournament champion Northern Iowa (21-9) and sixth-seeded
Boston College will battle Utah (24-8).

In recent tournament history, the five seed has always run into problems with
the 12th-seeded team, and this bracket is no exception as Providence could
find its hands full with Pacific. The No. 10 seed Nevada could also be a tough
matchup for Michigan State in the opening round.

Look for Smith’s squad to get through to the second round no matter who the
opponent, but trouble might loom ahead with a potential second-round matchup
against the Washington Huskies (19-11), who represent the only blemish on
Stanford’s otherwise perfect season.

The eighth-seeded Huskies getting into the second round is no lock though, as
they face off against a tough Alabama-Birmingham team (20-9) in Friday’s other
matchup in Columbus.

If Kentucky is able to get through to the Sweet 16, fourth-seeded Kansas may
be waiting. At the bottom half, Georgia Tech and Gonzaga should face off in
the round of 16 with the athletic Yellow Jackets pulling off a mild upset over
the second-seeded Bulldogs.

In the end, look for the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis to be buzzing with
Yellow Jackets just as Madison Square Garden was at the beginning of the
season after Tech’s win in the pre-season NIT, and it will be off to San
Antonio for the Jackets’ first trip to the Final Four since 1990.