Special Ks: Undefeated Kentucky and Kansas in Midwest Region

SEC Arkansas Kentucky Basketball
Kentucky head coach John Calipari speaks during a news conference after the NCAA college basketball Southeastern Conference tournament championship game against Arkansas, Sunday, March 15, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. Kentucky won 78-63.(AP Photo/Steve Helber)

(AP) Undefeated and overall No. 1 seed Kentucky will start the NCAA tournament in the Bluegrass State.

The perennial SEC champion Wildcats (34-0), trying to be the first undefeated national champion since 1976, play their NCAA Midwest Region opener Thursday against a No. 16 seed in Louisville, Kentucky. They will face Manhattan or Hampton, who play a First Four game Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio.

Kansas, which won its 11th Big 12 regular-season title in a row before losing to Iowa State in the conference tournament final, is the No. 2 seed in the Midwest. The Jayhawks (26-8) play New Mexico State (23-10) on Friday in Omaha, Nebraska.

Kentucky beat Kansas in the 2012 national championship game. The Wildcats made the title game again last season, losing to UConn.

If the top two seeds both get to the Midwest Region final in Cleveland, it would also be a rematch of a Nov. 18 game in which when Kentucky overwhelmed Kansas 72-40 in Indianapolis.

Unless there is an unprecedented opening upset for the Wildcats, they will play their second of six games needed for a national championship against No. 8 seed Cincinnati (22-10) or No. 9 Purdue (21-12), the other Midwest Region matchup Thursday in Louisville.

ACC tournament champion Notre Dame (29-5), coming off wins over Duke and North Carolina on consecutive nights to win that title, is the No. 3 seed. The Fighting Irish play Northeastern (23-11), which won its first-ever Colonial Athletic Conference tournament, in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Bobby Hurley, who won two national championships as Duke’s point guard, is now in the NCAA tournament as a head coach, leading the Bulls (23-9) to their first-ever appearance. They play No. 5 seed West Virginia (23-9) of the Big 12 on Friday in Columbus Ohio.

No. 6 seed Butler (22-10), the national runner-up in 2010 and 2011, plays Texas (20-13), another Big 12 team that lost to Kentucky this season.

Wichita State (28-4), a Final Four team two years ago, is the No. 7 seed and opens against Indiana (20-13). With a win, the Shockers would likely get to play in-state power Kansas.

Maryland (27-6), after a school-record 26 wins in the regular season, is the No. 4 seed and takes on Valparaiso (28-5).

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