Number 4 seed Kentucky, one of the most successful men’s basketball programs in NCAA history, faces the Stony Brook Seawolves in a first-round March Madness matchup that will stream live Thursday night from Des Moines, Iowa — but will the Wildcats fall victim to this year’s early-round upset, a phenomenon that seems to take place almost every year in the NCAA tournament?
The prospects that John Calipari’s team, which finished the season at 26-8 and won the Southeastern Conference championship after trips to the Final Four in each of the last two seasons, could succumb to a school making its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament seem remote.
But Stony Brook are on a high after winning their own conference championship, the America East, and feature six-foot-eight, 260-pound forward Jameel Warney, who averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds on the season before pouring in 43 in the AEC title game.
Warney says that his Stony Brook team will come into the Wells Fargo Arena prepared to beat Kentucky on Thursday night — he says he has no other choice.
“There’s no such thing as a moral victory anymore for me, because once I lose, that’s my last game,” Warney told The Stony Brook Statesman newspaper. “So, going out trying to win. I know I’m one of the best players in the country, I have to prove it in times like this.”
To find out how to watch a live stream of the Kentucky vs. Stony Brook first-round NCAA March Madness matchup, see the streaming link in the final paragraph of this article. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:57 p.m. Central Daylight Time at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday, March 17.
That start time will be 9:57 p.m. Eastern, 6:57 p.m. Pacific.
Calipari was not pleased with his team’s Number 4 seeding, which put them into the matchup against Stony Brook. Watch the coach explain his position in the video below.
Kentucky is loaded with three near-certain first-round picks in the 2016 NBA draft, with 19-year-old freshman point guard Jamal Murray, Haiti-born seven-footer Skal Labissiere — also a 19-year-old freshman — and sophomore guard Tyler Ulis.
At only five-foot-nine, Ulis is the outlier on an imposing Kentucky roster that features five players six-foot-eight or over.
If Kentucky has an obvious weakness, it appears on the defensive glass, where the Wildcats ranked a dismal 270th in defensive rebounding and finished with the lowest defensive assist percentage in the nation. As a result, Warney — considered by some experts to be the toughest low-post player in the entire tournament this year — should have plenty of second-chance opportunities to score.
Warney, and his teammates, will need to grab and convert those chances if they plan to become the authors of this year’s March Madness Cinderella story.
Stony Brook also boasts the country’s 61st-ranked defense, and they will need to use it to stop the fluent Kentucky shooting attack, keyed by Murray who averaged just over 20 points per game.
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Calipari assured Kentucky fans that his team is on guard against the upset-minded Seawolves.
“We’re gonna have to have one of our better efforts to win the game,” Calipari said. “One, well-coached. Two, their strength is their big kid (Warney), and they run great stuff, and he understands angles as good as anybody we’ve played this year.”
Kentucky has won an astounding eight national championships in the school’s history, most recently in 2012, to go with 29 SEC titles.
To watch a live stream of the Kentucky vs. Stony Brook NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament first-round March Madness matchup, go to the NCAA March Madness Live site at this link. Because the Kentucky vs. Stony Brook game is carried by the CBS network, no log-in credentials are required to watch the live stream for free. The game is also available on mobile devices, such as the iPhone or iPad, by downloading the March Madness app, as well as on set-top streaming boxes including Roku and Apple TV. But those options will require a log-in.
[Featured Photo By Andy Lyons / Getty Images]