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GREENSBORO- The house that Ric Flair built is hosting the opening two rounds of the NCAA Tournament on Friday and Saturday. From a storyline standpoint, most eyes will be on Kentucky and Xavier, with both teams looking to avoid an upset.
For a team like Pittsburgh, they’ve barely had a chance to take a breath since defeating Mississippi State on Tuesday night. The team departed Dayton, Ohio at 1:15 Wednesday morning, headed for Greensboro and a matchup with Iowa State. But the Panthers look at the first-four game as an advantage, already getting a taste of the tournament.
Whether you believe that or not is up to you. Is this the upset regional? It certainly could be with Kennesaw State, Montana State and Providence looking to cause chaos. I was present in Indianapolis last year for Kentucky’s first round loss, which hasn’t sat well for Wildcat fans over the past year. All eyes will be on John Calipari and whether or not his team can avoid to the upset loss to Providence.
If Ed Cooley and his Providence Friars pull off the upset, the situation in Lexington will turn ugly again, quick.
Pittsburgh Players Ecstatic That Barack Obama Picked Them In First Game
One of the funnier moments of the practice day in Greensboro occurred during Pittsburgh’s press conference, when a reporter brought up the fact that former President Barack Obama picked them to win their Friday game.
“You think Barack going to see this? Barack, what up, man? I love Barack. I’m not going to forget that right there,” Blake Hinson said with a big smile.
Even though most folks aren’t projecting Pittsburgh to make a long run in the NCAA Tournament, Panther players will take any type of support they can get.
“Man, you know, it feels good to know that Barack Obama, you know, is placing us to get this win, man, but at the end of the day we’ve got to come out and take care of business,” Nike Sibande noted.
Kennesaw State Embracing The Clear Underdog Role Against Xavier
A fourteen seed beating a three seed doesn’t happen very, but Kennesaw State is ready for the opportunity. Obviously, this is going to be a tall task, but as the team bounced around the court on Thursday, it felt as if this squad is ready for challenge. One of the positives of being the underdog is having the crowd in your corner, so expect a bunch of Kennesaw State fans in the Greensboro Coliseum on Friday.
“We’re still bringing the same attitude we brought every other game, being that nine times out of ten we’re considered the underdog. We’re just embracing it, and we’re just going to stay connected to one another and just feed into other brother,” Terrell Burdon mentioned.
It was only three years ago that this team finished the season 1-28. The Owls current record of 26-8 was the first winning season in eighteen years of Division ! basketball, along with their first NCAA Tournament appearance.
The basketball team has taken on acronym B.O.N.E, which was heard numerous times during the open practice. If you’re wondering what this means, ‘Be One No Ego’ is what this team is living bye right now. Maybe we’ll see one of those fantastic upsets that captivate college basketball.
Keyontae Johnson’s Return To Basketball Has Been Inspiring
The former Florida Gator star is currently thriving at Kansas State, when at one point is basketball career was in jeopardy. On December 12th, 2020, Johnson was playing for Florida, when he collapsed during a game against Florida State. Thank goodness the former Gators turned out to be ok, diagnosed with Acute Myocarditis, which sidelined him for the remainder of the season and the 2021-2022 season.
But, he was granted another opportunity to play basketball, this time at Kansas State. Johnson has turned his second chance into a success story, becoming one of the best players in the Big 12 this season. He’s averaging 18 points per game, while playing over thirty minutes every outing. Two years ago, his basketball career was unknown, but now he’s leading the Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament.
On Friday, he’ll take the court again, looking to lead his team to a win over upset-minded Montana State.
Kentucky Better Not Screw This Up Against Providence
If Providence finds a way to beat Kentucky on Friday, the chatter regarding John Calipari will only fire back up. It was only a few months ago that fans were calling into local talk shows to discuss the Wildcats head coach taking the Texas job. There was even one fan who was kicked out of Rupp Arena for holding a sign that read ‘Please go to Texas’.
After an early exit at the SEC Tournament, leaving Greensboro without two wins will be a colossal failure in Big Blue Nation’s eyes. The status of Sahvir Wheeler and Cason Wallace is a topic of discussion, but Kentucky is good enough to beat Providence without Wheeler, even though it sounds like he could play. The thousands of Kentucky fans, also known as the ‘Blue Mist’ will descend upon Greensboro hoping it doesn’t turnout like their 2022 trip to Indianapolis.
If John Calipari wants a peaceful off-season, he better make it to the Sweet-16, at the very least.
Stay tuned for the latest coverage from the NCAA Tournament in Greensboro. Follow @TreyWallace_ for updates.