After five trips to the America East Conference finals, the No. 13 seeded Stony Brook Seawolves (26-6, 14-2 AEC) finally won the AEC Tournament to earn the program's first bid to the Big Dance. Their first trip to the NCAA Tournament commences against No. 4 seeded Kentucky (26-8, 13-5 SEC) on Thursday, the requisite plight of a mid-major champ.
Kentucky enters Thursday in Des Moines fresh off an SEC Tournament victory over Texas A&M, though they looked rocky for much of their semifinal match against Georgia earlier week. Still, Tyler Ulis' averages of 17.2 points and 7.2 assists per game this season earned him SEC Player of the Year honors, and every bit of that production will come to bear on Stony Brook in the first round on Thursday.
Should Stony Brook find a way to write their Cinderella story, they will have to do so with defense: their 63.4 points allowed per game ranks them 19th in the country, and the Seawolves were first in the AEC, giving up just 61.0 points per outing. Kentucky allowed 68.3 points per game this season, ranking the 'Cats 87th. Kentucky's 122.3 offensive rating ranks first in points per 100 possessions, according to KenPom, despite a tempo rating of 67.7 possessions per 40 minutes.
Where Kentucky gets their work done, and what the Seawolves must disrupt, is in their shooting. On the season, the Wildcats as a team shot 47.9 percent from the field -- good for 25th in the country -- while the Seawolves' 47.7 percent shooting ranks 29th.
It'll require a Herculean effort from Stony Brook to pull off the upset over John Calipari's Wildcats. With 190 blocks on the season, Kentucky ranks sixth in that category, to say nothing of points machine Jamal Murray, who's averaging just north of 20 per outing.
How to watch:
Tip-off: Thurs., March 17, 9:40 p.m. ET, Welles Fargo Arena, Des Moines, Iowa
Online streaming: NCAA March Madness Live