As is the case most years when the NCAA Tournament rolls around
The Wildcats earned the No. 1 seed in the tournament after one of the most dominant regular seasons and conference tourney runs in the last few years. The last college basketball team this impressive was the 2011-12 Kentucky squad that won the title.
The roster changes annually, but the common denominator between the title winner three years ago and the one that has a chance to be only the second team in NCAA history to go undefeated is head coach John Calipari.
For all his faults – a smug personality, questionable recruiting tactics and multiple NCAA violations – Calipari is one of the best coaches in college basketball. With a roster loaded with NBA quality players, he is poised to add a second championship to his mantle.
The Wildcats have an absurd amount of talent, and could have as many as five first round picks in the NBA Draft. Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker and Trey Lyles are just a few of the talented freshmen who have carried Kentucky to dominance.
On the surface, there does not appear to be many teams in the tourney capable of knocking off the Wildcats, let alone the Midwest region Kentucky’s slated to play in. The perennially overrated Kansas Jayhawks are the two seed in the region, but Bill Self’s crew does not have the star power capable of an upset.
The only team in the Midwest region that might have a chance to knock off the Wildcats is Notre Dame and All-American guard Jerian Grant. Grant is one of the top scorers in the country at 16.8 points per game. He leads the Irish in every major offensive category.
The Irish lethal outside shooting could present major problems for Kentucky in the Sweet 16 if both teams advance. Notre Dame has four player – sophomores Demetrius Jackson, V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia, and senior guard Pat Connaughton – who shoot over 40 percent from beyond the arc.
Other teams like Ohio State, Duke and North Carolina have the talent and coaching necessary to take down Kentucky, but the earliest they would face the Wildcats is in the Elite 8, the fourth round of the tournament.
Realistically, the best chance any team will have to beat Kentucky is luck, one of the biggest variables in the NCAA Tournament. Every year small schools with inferior talent knock out powerhouse programs like Duke, North Carolina and Kansas in the early rounds. Some teams get hot from three or catch a break with officiating.
One of the best aspects of the tournament is the complete randomness it produces. The unpredictability of the tourney keeps the audience attached to the screen. Kentucky is the overwhelming favorite, but nobody knows for sure how it is going to respond to the pressure of having to be perfect.
The next two weeks are some of the best of the year. When filling out a bracket, remember that when all else fails, pick against Duke.