NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It’s hard to imagine Kentucky not getting a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament even if the Wildcats were to stumble Friday against Alabama.
But Kentucky coach John Calipari is using the No. 1 seed as motivation for his club.
“When you're playing a team like Alabama, you have to have the same energy and the same mentality. You have to be playing for something that's important to you,” Calipari said. “For us, it’s that [No. 1] seed in the NCAA tournament.
“I’ve done this a long time, and if anybody tells you the seed doesn’t matter, they’ve never coached in the NCAA tournament. Seed does matter. If that's more important than them playing their season beyond this, then we’ll be fine. If it’s more important to them to continue their season, then we’ll get beat.”
Here’s a quick glance at Friday’s quarterfinal games:
Game 1: Alabama vs. Kentucky, 1 p.m. ET
What’s at stake: The Wildcats want to leave little doubt that they’re a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and this is the first taste of the postseason for the freshman trio of John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe. Alabama seems to be maturing at just the right time. The Crimson Tide rallied from an 18-point deficit in the second half to beat South Carolina 68-63 in the first round.
Scouting report: How interested is Kentucky to be playing in this tournament? If the Wildcats are knocking down shots, it really shouldn’t matter. With their size and talent, they’re good enough to beat anybody in this league when they’re making shots. Even though Kentucky’s dangerous in the transition game, look for Alabama to take its chances with the press and try to force the Wildcats into mistakes.
They said it: “It’s more than winning for us. It’s how we play. It’s about getting us in the right frame of mind for a postseason run.” -- Kentucky coach John Calipari
Game 2: Ole Miss vs. Tennessee, 3:15 p.m. ET
What’s at stake: Here’s the Rebels’ chance to state their case for an NCAA tournament bid. They’re playing well right now and get a Tennessee team that’s already in the NCAA field. A win over the Vols could be enough to punch Ole Miss’ ticket. The Rebels need a marquee win in the worst way. They haven’t beaten a team with a winning record since December.
Scouting report: Tennessee’s Wayne Chism torched Ole Miss in the teams’ first meeting, a 71-69 win by the Vols in Knoxville. He scored 26 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. The other thing the Vols have going for them is 6-foot-11 Brian Williams, who’s playing the best basketball of his career after being suspended the first time the teams played. Ole Miss counters with strong guard play. Tennessee doesn’t have a lot of answers for the Chris Warren-Terrico White tandem.
They said it: “Tennessee didn’t shoot the ball well [in the first round], but can we be fortunate enough for that to happen two days in a row? We feel like our backs are against the wall, but we still control our own destiny.” -- Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy.
Game 3: Florida vs. Mississippi State, 7:30 p.m. ET
What’s at stake: The Gators can probably breathe a little easier after taking care of Auburn in the first round, although a second straight win in Nashville would probably lock up a trip to the NCAA tournament. There is no tomorrow for the Bulldogs unless they win Friday and keep winning. They probably need to win the SEC tournament championship for the second straight year if they’re going to go back to the NCAA tournament.
Scouting report: With college basketball’s top shot-blocker, Jarvis Varnado, roaming the interior, nothing comes easy against Mississippi State inside. It’s difficult to gauge where the Bulldogs are emotionally right now. They were awful on Senior Night in a resounding loss to Tennessee last weekend. The key for the Gators is getting off to a good start. They did that in the first-round win over Auburn after falling behind by double digits in their three straight losses entering the tournament.
They said it: “We had been getting off to slow starts, so we wanted to come out there and throw the first punch and come out with a hunter mentality.” -- Florida junior forward Chandler Parsons
Game 4: Georgia vs. Vanderbilt, 9:45 p.m. ET
What’s at stake: The Bulldogs proved they could win away from home on Thursday in the first round and now they try to carry that momentum into the semifinals. They have just enough athleticism and size to be a team that nobody wants to face right now. The Commodores are probably locked in as a No. 4 or No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament, but would like to get that sour taste out of their mouths from losing to South Carolina on Senior Day last weekend.
Scouting report: Georgia was a tough matchup for Vanderbilt in both previous outings this season. The Bulldogs won 72-58 back on Feb. 6 in Athens, scoring 49 second-half points. The Bulldogs nearly made it a clean sweep of the Commodores on Feb. 25 in Memorial Gym, but couldn’t hold a five-point lead in the final 33 seconds of regulation. Vanderbilt staged a miraculous comeback and won 96-94 in overtime behind a career-high 28 points from senior point guard Jermaine Beal.
They said it: “We feel like we’re better equipped. We’re deeper. We’re bigger. We’re stronger. We’re more physical. We’re better, so we feel like we have a better chance to play well and have a chance to win this tournament. You would think there would be more success here and there. Nobody’s had success in it but Kentucky.” -- Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings.