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Jamie Vaught: CBS sideline reporter Wolfson sees Wildcats as tourney’s No. 1 storyline

Tracy Wolfson is covering her 10th NCAA Tournament as a sideline reporter for CBS (Jamie Vaught Photo)

Tracy Wolfson is covering her 10th NCAA Tournament as a sideline reporter for CBS (Jamie Vaught Photo)


Tracy Wolfson has seen a plenty of March Madness.

“I’ve been part of close to 10 tournaments,” she said.

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And this year’s NCAA tournament promises to be an exciting one as top-ranked UK, now 34-0, could become the first national championship team to go unbeaten since 1976 when Indiana captured its NCAA title with a 32-0 mark. That’s the tournament’s major storyline and Wolfson agrees.

“Can Kentucky remain undefeated and win the championship? Who could beat them?” said Wolfson, one of the more respected sideline reporters in the broadcasting industry.

Sports Illustrated, in its cover story for the March 16 edition, came up with five contenders who can cause problems for the Wildcats. The five teams are Virginia (No. 2 seed), Wisconsin (No. 1 seed), Duke (No. 1 seed) , Northern Iowa (No. 5 seed) and Arizona (No. 2 seed). If one, two or three of them advance in their respective region, they would meet the Cats in the Final Four.

As for Wolfson, she is extremely busy this week, studying and reviewing the tournament teams.

In a brief interview with this columnist, Wolfson said, in covering the Big Dance, the most challenging part is “the prep, especially for the first day when you are covering eight teams in one day (in the second round).”

“You find out only late Sunday night or early Monday morning where you are going and which teams you will see and have just three or four days to prepare,” she said. “And there are many teams and players you have never seen. So it is definitely a cram session and you pull a few all-nighters to prepare.”

Tracy Wolfson with Andrew Harrison during an interview at Rupp Arena (Jamie Vaught Photo)

Tracy Wolfson with Andrew Harrison during an interview at Rupp Arena (Jamie Vaught Photo)

Wolfson, who lives in New Jersey with her husband and three sons, will be working this weekend (Friday and Sunday games) in Charlotte, N.C., with Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill for CBS.

In addition to covering SEC football games on Saturdays in the past (including UK’s 2007 shocking upset of top-ranked LSU in three overtimes at Commonwealth Stadium), the reporter has covered other major sporting events, including NFL’s Super Bowl. But she really enjoys March Madness.

“It is a month of madness!” said Wolfson, a pleasant personality who by the way celebrated her birthday on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. “I always say, ‘I love regular season football and postseason college basketball.’ As compared to Super Bowl which is one game, this is three weeks filled with emotion, passion, highs and lows. Win and advance. Lose and go home.”

When the Final Four commences on the last weekend of the NCAA tournament in Indianapolis, Wolfson will be there to cover the so-called Super Bowl of college basketball. This will mark her seventh Final Four.

And she is an eyewitness to several memorable moments of the NCAA tournament. Her list includes:

— No. 8 seed UK’s remarkable journey to the national championship game in 2014. “Last year’s run by Kentucky and those game-winners by (Aaron) Harrison made were crazy,” said Wolfson, who also pointed out the Wildcats had beaten her alma mater, Michigan, in the Elite Eight.

— Michigan’s appearance in the 2013 Final Four where it lost to Louisville in the title game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. “Michigan’s run to the championship two years ago was special, getting to cover my team,” she said.

— Watching “Cinderella” Butler square off against Duke in the 2010 national championship matchup in its hometown of Indianapolis before losing, 61-59. And it has turned out to be Coach K’s last national title so far.

— The 2013 Louisville-Duke regional final at Indianapolis which involved a gruesome injury in front of a stunned crowd of nearly 35,000 and a national TV audience. “Kevin Ware’s horrific injury will always be in my mind when going back to Indy,” said Wolfson.

Wolfson — who began her on-air broadcasting career in 2000 at WZBN-TV in Trenton, N.J., as a sports anchor, reporter and producer — often uses social media. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Like some of her CBS colleagues, Wolfson is becoming a fixture in the NCAA tourney, especially during the Final Four.

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Most everyone, including yours truly, agrees Kentucky should breeze through the tournament and clinch the school’s ninth national title on the first Monday of April.

But, in reality, the Wildcats could face potential roadblocks from their possible Midwest Regional opponents, especially the ones who have beaten tourney’s No. 1 seeds during the regular season.

For instance, the Cats could end up meeting fourth-seed Maryland, a new Big 10 member which defeated No. 1-seed Wisconsin, during the Sweet Sixteen in Cleveland.

Another possible foe for UK is No. 3-seed Notre Dame and All-American Jerian Grant in the Midwest Regional finals. The Fighting Irish, who won the ACC Tournament title, stopped No. 1-seed Duke twice this season.

Don’t forget No. 5-seed West Virginia, either. That’s another potential opponent for Kentucky in Sweet Sixteen. John Calipari is 2-8 against his coaching friend Bob Huggins of West Virginia.

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Of course, there is No. 2-seed Kansas, a traditional powerhouse whom the Cats may face in the regional finals. Back in November, the Cats dominated the Jayhawks by a score of 72-40.

By the way, don’t forget Purdue, a possible UK opponent for Saturday’s third-round game in Louisville. The Boilermakers have a pair of 7-footers.

You also have Wichita State. The 28-4 Shockers will be seeking revenge against Kentucky for ruining its unbeaten campaign last March in St. Louis.

So, the Midwest Regional isn’t all that easy for Kentucky. However, the Cats, on paper, should move on and join the Final Four party in Indy where the Big Blue Nation will invade, just like they did in Nashville during the SEC tournament.

Stay tuned.

Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime columnist in Kentucky, is the author of four books about UK basketball and a KyForward contributor. He is the editor of KySportsStyle360.com online magazine and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro. You can follow him on Twitter @KySportsStyle. He can be reached via e-mail at KySportsStyle360@gmail.com.

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