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The need-to-know info for Kentucky vs. Saint Peter’s Peacocks in the NCAA Tournament.

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round Indianapolis Practice Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky Basketball vs. Saint Peter’s Peacocks


Despite it being an up and down path to get there, the Kentucky Wildcats locked up a respectable 2 seed in the East Region.

Now, the Cats will take on Saint Peter’s from Jersey City (NJ) at 7:10 pm ET Thursday night inside Indianapolis’ Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

The Peacocks (awesome mascot) out of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference enter the NCAA Tournament with an overall record of 19-11. They finished second in the conference during the regular season behind Rick Pitino’s Iona Gaels. That included eight-point and nine-point losses to Iona.

Saint Peter’s got it done when it mattered most, beating Monmouth 60-54 on Saturday in the MAAC Championship to punch their ticket into the Big Dance.

It wasn’t a surprise to see Kentucky placed in a prime-time CBS slot with Ian Eagle and Jim Spanarlkel on the call. Even when it’s a 15 or 16 seed in the opening weekend, Kentucky typically gets one of the primetime slots.

You’d anticipate a big showing of Wildcat fans making the short trip up north to Indy for the first two rounds. However, with Murray State and Tennessee also playing in there, you could make an argument that the Cats won’t have quite the dominating crowd that they're used to.

Obviously, Saint Peter’s should be a matchup where Kentucky can use its size and strength to its advantage, which includes a heavy dose of National Player of the Year frontrunner Oscar Tshiebwe.

This will be Saint Peter’s fourth overall NCAA Tournament appearance, and the first time since 2011.

The Peacocks are coached by Shaheen Holloway — a former Seton Hall standout from the late 90s. He’s positioned his team for their fourth-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament.

Thursday’s matchup will be much more about Kentucky getting themselves back on track as opposed to combating anything particular that Saint Peter’s will throw at them.

After a demoralizing loss to Tennessee in the SEC Tournament semifinals coupled with not-so-great showings vs. Ole Miss and Florida, it seems as if the Cats may be trending downward at the worst time imaginable.

Getting guys like Kellan Grady and TyTy Washington playing at a high level consistently will be a requirement if Kentucky is to make it to Philadelphia and win the East Region.

How about a shootaround this week?

You’ve probably heard that John Calipari attempted to place the blame at his own feet by admitting he didn’t have his normal shootaround before the abysmal performance against the Vols.

“The last game, I’m putting it on myself, No shoot-around was the dumbest thing. I can’t believe I did it and I didn’t go with my gut, and we didn’t do it. But in that game when I watched it, a lot of guys were doing stuff they hadn’t done in a while.” Calipari said.

As we all know, the Cats would go on to shoot 2/20 from deep and seemingly couldn’t throw it in the ocean. Needless to say, I’d expect Coach Cal to implement the old routine again in Indy.

Making shots may not be as easy as you might think against a MAAC team like Saint Peter’s. The Peacocks have a top-35 defense as rated by KenPom and hold opponents under 45% shooting from inside three-point range.

Only two players on the roster average more than 10 points a game. Junior guard Daryl Banks III gets 11 per contest, and 6-foot-7 senior forward KC Ndefo adds 10.6 points and 6.2 rebounds.

After what happened on Saturday, it’s safe to say that Kentucky can take nothing for granted. But if they bring their A game, they should thrive against the Peacocks, then get the winner of Murray State vs. San Francisco.

Believe it or not — Kentucky and Murray state have never played — ever. So that’ll be something to keep your eye on heading into this weekend.

Bottom line: Kentucky should be able to feed Oscar Tshiebwe early and often while overwhelming Saint Peter’s with their size.

Follow A Sea of Blue for updates and all Kentucky tournament coverage.