While the Kentucky men's basketball team was shipped to Bourbon Street to begin its postseason quest Matthew Mitchell's women's squad will start its own tournament dance right down the road.
Kentucky earned a No. 4 seed in the women's NCAA Tournament and were rewarded for its terrific season by being placed in the Louisville bracket that will be played at Freedom Hall. The Cats (27-5) will take on No. 13 seed Liberty in Saturday's first round at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN2. Should Mitchell's squad win it would face either No. 5 seed Michigan State or No. 12 seed Bowling Green.
The opportunity to play just 75 miles from campus thrilled Mitchell.
"We're happy to be playing in the tournament and have an opportunity to compete for a national championship," Mitchell said. "I was so happy to be in the field and happy that the players have this opportunity. That's all we wanted all year. To get it started in Louisville is a really special opportunity for us."
"It can make a tremendous difference if we can somehow some way reach our fans and let them know how important it is to go buy tickets and show up," Mitchell said. There is nothing that can replace that energy that they can give you. You've seen how well we can play at home. Any kind of support or crowd we could get will mean a lot to us and be a big bonus. We have to go play. We have to play well. We have to play tough. Any little bit of advantage you can gain is huge. Clearly, we have the opportunity now."
Liberty (27-5) claimed the 2010 Big South Conference Tournament with a 68-66 victory against No. 1-seed Gardner-Webb in the tournament finals. The Flames have won 10 consecutive games leading into the NCAA Tournament and 20 of their last 21 contests. Liberty has won the Big South Tournament title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament 10 times in the last 11 years, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2004-05.
UK is 1-1 all-time vs. Liberty and has never met the Flames in post-season play. UK's last matchup with Liberty was in 1999. The Cats are 9-12 all-time in Freedom Hall.
The Louisville pod is hosted by the University of Louisville and will be played at Freedom Hall. Session booklets include all three games are only $27. They are available through the UK Ticket Office at (859) 257-1818 with an order deadline of Tuesday, March 16 at 4 p.m. EST. Ticket requests will be accepted via phone 1-859-257-1818 or 1-800-928-CATS (2287), fax 859-323-1269, walk-up at the UK Ticket Office in the Joe Craft Center or online at UKathletics.com.
There are also tickets available from Freedom Hall by calling 1-800-633-7105 or 502-852-5151and by box office purchase. The box office operation times are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. EST.