Written By: Kevin Keise Of Houston TREND
With all of the admiration of this year’s so far perfect, 38-0, Kentucky team, ironically, after a two-point 68-66 victory over Notre Dame in the elite eight, they are now being labeled as vulnerable.
Are they? Do the now perfect Wildcats have imperfections that could haunt them against Wisconsin and prevent them from being the first team since Indiana in 1976 to go undefeated, and winning a national championship?
Yes, they do.
Wisconsin, the most efficient offensive team in the NCAA, is a formidable team that is capable of beating Kentucky,the most efficient defensive team in the NCAA. And here’s how.
First of all, if any team is ready to play and end the Wildcats’ historical run, it’s the Badgers. Why? Because last year in this same game, Kentucky knocked them out of the tournament thanks to late game heroics by Aaron Harrison, arguably the best clutch shooter in college basketball in the past two years. Last year, Aaron made a deep 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds remaining that lifted the Wildcats to a 74-73 victory over Wisconsin. I guarantee you that that memory is lingering in the back of the Badgers’ head and they are looking forward to this Final Four rematch to re-write their wrongs.
Secondly, Wisconsin has the height and skill to run with Kentucky’s front line. With all of the shot blocking prowess of Kentucky’s big men, Wisconsin will definitely challenge them. These are not little boys were talking about, these are ballers. The NBCSports.com National Player of the Year, Frank Kaminsky, has guard-like abilities who just happened to be a 7-footer. Sam Dekker is an super athletic small forward standing at 6-foot-9 who can get to the rim with the best of them and not to mention, he can make shots. He’ll for sure need to make them against KU. Nigel Hayes is a 6-foot-8 versatile big man who has a plethora of post moves, who can threes and take you off the dribble if you’re a slower defender. Duje Dukan, the sixth man, is even 6-foot-8.
Another thing that favors Wisconsin is their rebounding ability. Wisconsin is a beast on the defensive glass, giving up offensive rebounds on just 23.9 percent of an opponents’ missed shots. Despite Kentucky’s length and athleticism, they’ve been out rebounded in a number of games.
Now with that being said, Kentucky can still win this game also and they are the favorite.
The last time this Kentucky team was doubted, it fueled them to obliterate West Virgina. West Virgina’s freshman guard Daxter Miles, had the nerve to downplay Kentucky’s effort, saying that they don’t play hard. That was smart. Consequently, his statements fueled the Wildcats to a 39-point victory over the Mountaineers in the sweet sixteen. Miles was held scoreless and as a result, everybody in the sports world labeled them as one of the best defensive teams ever. Wow! Really, one of the best defensive teams ever? Maybe that’s true.
Statically, they’re on pace to be. In five defensive categories, the Wildcats rank in the top 10 in comparison with the top 25 teams of every season since 1974-75, when the N.C.A.A. tournament expanded to 32 teams. That’s 1,000 teams. Kentucky ranks first in points allowed per 100 possessions at 81.3 and assist allowed per 100 possessions at 11.6. They rank second in defensive field goal percentage at 35.5, only out of first place by .3 percent. They rank fourth at opponents points per game at 54, and eighth margin of victory at 20.9.
Physically, Kentucky has one the tallest starting lineups in all of basketball, including the NBA! Kentucky’s lineup consists of Andrew and Aaron Harrison (6’6), Alex Poythress (6’8), Karl Towns (6’11), and Willie Cauley-Stein (7’0) for a total of 403 inches. Not to mention, when coach John Calipari brings in Trey Lyles (6’10) off the bench, that makes them even more lengthy on the defensive end. Only the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks have a taller line up at 405 inches.
If the Badgers play like they played against Arizona, as Sam Dekker posted a career high with 27 points, 20 of them coming in the second half and Kaminsky finishing with 29, this game could be a classic just like last year. Mind you, Kentucky must come to play if they want to be the first team ever to finish a perfect 40 because they can be beat, I repeat, THEY CAN BE BEAT!