Cats draw DePaul, possibly UCLA, in Maui
Kentucky will kick off what it hopes will be a championship trip to Hawaii for the EA Sports Maui Invitational by taking on DePaul in the first round of the eight-team tournament. The Cats could then face UCLA, who faces host Chaminade, in the semifinals should both teams win their first contest.
The brackets for the 2006 Maui Invitational were released Thursday, with perhaps the two most storied programs in NCAA history sitting on the same side of the draw. Memphis will face Oklahoma and Georgia Tech takes on Purdue in the other bracket. UK and DePaul will tip off at 9 p.m. eastern time Monday, Nov. 20.
The Cats and Blue Demons have played 20 times in their histories with UK winning 17 of those contests, but they have not met since the 1970 season. UCLA and UK last met in December of 2003 at the John Wooden Classic in Anaheim, Calif., where the Cats won 52-50.
"Maui is one of the premiere events in college basketball," UK coach Tubby Smith said. "With a field this strong, every match-up is going to be competitive. DePaul presents another early-season challenge that we'll have to make sure our club is prepared for. We are looking forward to getting to the island."
DePaul, which joined the Big East Conference a year ago, could be an intriguing first round opponent. The Blue Demons were just 12-15 a year ago but they return nearly everyone from that team, including the top six scorers. The team had four players – Sammy Mejia, Draelon Burns, Wilson Chandler and Karron Clarke – averaged at least 10 points a game, led by the 6-foot-6 Mejia's 15.1 a contest.
UK will have already played two exhibitions and two regular season games when it travels to Maui, an important fact given the Cats have four newcomers they will be counting on to grow up quickly and compliment veterans like Randolph Morris, Bobby Perry and Joe Crawford.
UK's full schedule should be released soon, as the school is just waiting on the Southeastern Conference to finalize its league slate.
1st ROUND SCHEDULE (all times Eastern)
2:30 p.m. – Oklahoma vs. Memphis
5:00 – Purdue vs. Georgia Tech
9:00 – Kentucky vs. DePaul
11:30 – Chaminade vs. UCLA