In the early hours of March 2, the Kentucky men’s basketball team will face a potential matchup with Mississippi State in the opening game of the Wildcats’ NCAA Tournament run.
The Bulldogs will look to secure a spot in the Sweet 16, where they have not reached since their last tournament appearance in 2013.
The game will be broadcast on ABC, and the match will also be streamed live on ESPN2.
Kentucky is undefeated in the NCAA Tournament since the tournament began in 2008.
It’s the only team in the country to have won the tournament five straight times and is a member of the three teams to have reached the Sweet Sixteen in the last 10 years.
While Kentucky is not considered a favorite in the tournament, there is still some uncertainty surrounding its status.
The Bulldogs have never been to the Sweet Eight and have been eliminated from the tournament once.
Mississippi State, on the other hand, is a perennial contender, with four NCAA Tournament appearances.
However, the Bulldogs have struggled with injuries over the past couple of seasons, as both freshman guard Anthony Gill and sophomore forward Ryan Kelly both missed time with injuries last season.
There is also uncertainty over whether or not freshman forward Malik Monk, who has struggled to play due to injuries, will be available for the tournament.
It’s the third time in as many years that the Bulldogs will be without their best player.
Earlier this year, sophomore forward Kadeem Allen was lost for the season with a torn Achilles tendon, which was a setback for the team.
After Allen went down, the team went on to lose its last three games to finish the regular season at 3-9.
“I am really excited to get back and play, especially with Coach (Dennis) Evert, Coach (Kenny) Ester and the staff.
We have been trying to make the tournament,” said Kelly, who averaged 17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists last season after missing all of last season with the knee injury.
Kelly said the return of Allen and freshman guard Isaiah Whitehead was important for Kentucky’s chances of making the tournament this season.
“The return of Kadeems Allen and the return on Whitehead is huge for our team, especially when they were on the floor for us last year,” Kelly said.
“[The team] was a lot better off with the injuries they had last year and we are a lot more confident now that we have those guys back.
I’m looking forward to it, just looking forward and just enjoying being back out there.
For us, it’s a huge win for the program and our fans.”
The schedule will feature the likes of Kansas, Georgia, Iowa, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Baylor, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Kansas State.
In addition to the Bulldogs, the schedule also features three games against teams that finished in the Top 25 of the Associated Press poll last season: Iowa State, Kansas and Oklahoma State.
The Wildcats will also take on the Jayhawks, who finished No. 25 in the AP poll.
Louisville, which finished No, 17 in the final AP poll, will play in the second round of the NCAA tournament.