College Sports

Calipari called it: Why he knew UK would face Wofford before bracket was revealed

Wofford point guard Storm Murphy previews matchup against Kentucky

No. 7 seed Wofford will face No 2 seed Kentucky Saturday afternoon in the second round of the tournament
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No. 7 seed Wofford will face No 2 seed Kentucky Saturday afternoon in the second round of the tournament

Wofford and star guard Fletcher Magee showed the nation what they are capable of Thursday night, pulling away for an 84-68 victory against Seton Hall for their first NCAA Tournament win in school history.

While the Terriers’ performance caught some analysts and fans by surprise, Kentucky coach John Calipari was already well aware of what the team from Spartanburg, South Carolina, is capable of.

Even before the NCAA Tournament bracket was released, Calipari told his team about Wofford, one of the top mid-major programs in the country. Calipari, who has made it a habit of complaining about his team’s draw for March Madness, expected the No. 2 seed Wildcats to be matched up against the trendy underdog story in Wofford.

“I called this. I knew we’d be playing this team and my team knew, because I told them before we would be playing Wofford because you and I know how hard this game will be,” Calipari said Friday at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville. “I don’t think there’s any, like, ‘We’re a favorite.’ Come on now. This team is legitimate in every form and fashion.”

The No. 7 seed Terriers are a 5.5-point underdog for Saturday’s game, which will tip off at approximately 2:40 p.m. on CBS. But they are also as hot as any team in the country.

Wofford has won 21 consecutive games dating back to December and has the NCAA Division I career 3-point leader on its team in Magee, who set the record with a 7-for-12 performance from 3-point range against Seton Hall. Magee now has 509 3-pointers in his career. The previous record was 504.

“I think what makes him such a good shooter is he has a lot of confidence,” Kentucky guard Immanuel Quickley said. “He also has a really green light, so when you’ve got that green light, you know you’re going to make some and you’re going to miss some... He’s a really good player and we’ve just got to be ready for all that.”

Another factor working in Wofford’s favor is that PJ Washington, who is arguably Kentucky’s best player, is injured and is unlikely to play.

Washington leads Kentucky with an average of 15 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. He suffered a sprained foot in the SEC semifinal matchup against Tennessee. He was at the arena on Friday with a boot on his foot.

“I’m overly cautious because it’s these kids’ careers, and I get it. I know this. He really wants to play,” Calipari said. “But I also want to feel comfortable that if he gets on the court that there’s nothing he can do to himself, and the doctors have pretty much said that. So it’s just, OK, when is it healed up enough that he can go?”

Even though Calipari has some concerns about facing Wofford, Kentucky big man Nick Richards made it clear that he is confident entering the showdown. Richards believes the Wildcats have a big advantage of the post with Richards, Reid Travis and EJ Montgomery facing off against Cam Jackson, Chevez Goodwin, Keve Aluma and Matt Pegram of Wofford.

“It’s a really good advantage for us. They’re not really as athletic as all three of us,” Richards said. “Their bigs are really skilled around the basket, they know how to move on the floor, but we’re just better than them overall.”

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