“Is ours like the toughest again?” the UK coach asked the media sarcastically shortly after the brackets were unveiled Sunday. “Like by far? Is anyone in here surprised? We’re not playing here on Thursday, right? Because we just got done playing (Sunday). Oh we are playing on Thursday? We’re (playing) close (to Kentucky)? Oh, Anchorage or Boise?
“It is what it is. They’re not going to make it easy for us. They can say it’s all by the numbers and all that. OK.”
John Calipari is not happy about Kentucky's NCAA Tournament draw. pic.twitter.com/zR2aM1NLBB— KSTV (@KSTV_Sports) March 11, 2018
Kentucky is the No. 5 seed in the vaunted South Region, which includes No. 1 seed Virginia, No. 2 seed Cincinnati, No. 3 seed Tennessee and, to Calipari’s surprise, No. 4 seed Arizona.
“How did they drop to a 4?” Calipari asked. “Didn’t they win their (conference) tournament?”
Here's what John Calipari said about Arizona being in the top half of UK's bracket. pic.twitter.com/Aqew2CsoNA— KSTV (@KSTV_Sports) March 11, 2018
Arizona fans feel the same way about their school’s draw, too.
A 4-seed is probably fair, but the UA was expected to be placed in the West Region and open tournament play in nearby San Diego instead of all the way up north in Boise.
It is especially mind-boggling that Arizona is in the South Region considering that Auburn, a team, you know, actually from the South, is the No. 4 seed in the West. Wouldn’t it make sense to flip those two? Probably.
So, yes, neither Kentucky nor Arizona are happy with how things shook out. But, barring an Arizona loss to Buffalo or a Kentucky loss to Davidson in the first round, we will get a Kentucky-Arizona matchup in the Round of 32, which surely will be one of the most intriguing games in the opening weekend of the tournament.
Both squads feature a plethora of blue-chip talent, a rabid fanbase, and coaches that are highly familiar with each other.
“His grandmother practically raised me,” Calipari said of Arizona coach Sean Miller. “His father is one of the best coaches at any level. Obviously Archie and Sean, they’re like family (to me). Our families are close. I recruited (Sean) to Pitt, recruited his brother to Massachusetts.”
Here's John Calipari on his relationship with Arizona head coach Sean Miller. pic.twitter.com/pKWiwGC0LA— KSTV (@KSTV_Sports) March 11, 2018
Miller has not faced Calipari since becoming Arizona’s head coach at the start of the 2009-10 season, but the two did coach against each other in the 2008-09 season when Miller was at Xavier and Calipari was at Memphis.
Miller’s Musketeers beat Calipari’s Tigers on a neutral court.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire