ST. LOUIS — Kentucky and Wichita State are set to face off in the most anticipated game of the round of 32.
CBS has its top announcing crew in town for the showdown between the team that was supposed to be unbeaten and the one that actually is. National media members from every outlet have descended on St. Louis ready to add to the hype.
But on Friday, the status of one of the key players in the matchup was thrown into doubt when Andrew Harrison went down with a right elbow injury in the final minutes against Kansas State.
As much as the powers that be may want both sides at full strength for the made-for-TV matchup, the NCAA Tournament stops for no man.
“Will they postpone the game for a little while so he will get healthy?” John Calipari said, drawing laughs. “Or do we have to play? We probably got to play.”
Andrew Harrison is officially listed as day-to-day as of Saturday evening, marking no change from the wee hours of the morning following UK’s second-round victory. But after a night of treatment, the freshman point guard is in significantly less pain, though still stiff.
“Oh, it felt a lot better this morning,” Andrew Harrison said. “Last night it was very painful but now I’m getting better.”
Andrew Harrison, speaking immediately before UK’s practice at the Scottrade Center, wore a sleeve on his shooting arm to protect his hyperextended elbow. How much Andrew Harrison will participate was unclear.
The basicsWhat: No. 8 seed Kentucky (25-10) vs. No. 1 seed Wichita State (35-0)
When: Sunday, 2:45 p.m. ET
Where: Scottrade Center (18,750) in St. Louis
Game notes: UK | Wichita State
TV/Radio coverageTV: CBS
Radio: UK IMG
Live stream: NCAA.com
Satellite radio: Sirius 85; XM 190
Live stats: Gametracker
Live blog: CoachCal.com
Wichita StateRecord: 35-0
Head coach: Gregg Marshall (174-70 at Wichita State)
Player to watch: Cleanthony Early (16.0 points, 5.9 rebounds per game)
Series history: Never met
Due to the uncertainty, Coach Cal said UK is preparing for top-seeded Wichita State (35-0) as though the Wildcats will be without their floor general. Andrew Harrison said after the Kansas State win he would play no matter what, but his coach wouldn’t rule out the possibility of holding him out.
“What if he is 70 percent and I see it?” Calipari said. “And I just say we can’t win with a guy at 70 percent, we’re going to have to play without you.”
While Andrew Harrison tries to ready himself to play, the Cats will try to figure out how to handle his potential absence.
With Andrew Harrison battling a knee injury in the preseason, UK opened with both Aaron Harrison at point guard in its first exhibition before switching to senior Jarrod Polson in the second. Coach Cal now faces a similar decision.
“I don’t know how we will do,” Calipari said. “We may have Aaron start at point guard. Like I said, we will practice a little bit today and we’ll see.”
Ideally, UK would like to have its full complement of players as the Cats bid to handle the Shockers their first loss. Losing their point guard would a particularly significant blow, especially with Andrew Harrison playing his best basketball in the postseason, averaging 10 points and six assists in four games. Kentucky’s recent turnaround can largely be attributed to his improvement over the last two weeks.
Nonetheless, the show must go on.
“I have a lot of confidence in whoever’s filling his position,” Julius Randle said. “Jarrod, Aaron filling the point, we’ve got guys who can play quality minutes at the point position this year and that have been able to step up if he can’t play. We’ll see, but we have a lot of depth so I’m not too worried about it.”
Given his history, however, Andrew Harrison should not be ruled out.
“In high school I pulled my hamstring and I played,” Andrew Harrison said. “It was pretty tough but I’ll be all right.”
“I have seen Andrew play through pain, so if he’s able to play he’ll play,” said his brother, Aaron.
An injury to his shooting arm is a first though.
“I guess I’ll be just trying to get a few more assists,” Andrew Harrison said.
To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you’ll enjoy even more coverage than normal.
Notes: Randle regains form in tourney debut