City Sports Report

5 challengers For Kentucky in NCAA tournament

Kentucky basketball is at the top of the hill. Is there anyone that can knock them off the hill? (photo courtesy of www.kentuckysportsradio.com)

The University of Kentucky has been on a mission since the season started. They had most of the 2014 National title runner-up team coming back ( center Willie Cauley-Stein, forward Alex Poythress, guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison, center Dakari Johnson) and they had an influx of talented freshmen. As soon as the talents coming in and the talents staying were announced, many thought this team had the capability to go undefeated. And so far this season, they have not disappointed. The Wildcats are 34-0 and many are wondering is this year’s tournament going to be called the Kentucky Invitational or will someone step up to the challenge and knock off Kentucky? Whoever is to knock them off, they must be a physical team that has some size and some ability. And they may need some veteran leadership as well. Very few have the capability to beat them, but anything is definitely possible. Here are four teams that are definitely able to beat the Kentucky Wildcats.

Wisconsin Badgers (they could face Kentucky in the Final Four)

The Wisconsin Badgers are a team that has some size and more importantly they play with pace. They would be better able to play Kentucky at their pace if they had a full strength Traevon Jackson, but even without him they can still hang around. Their style is very fundamentally sound and they do not get rattled. You pair that with the abilities of their stars, Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, and they could give some trouble to Kentucky. The most difficult matchup for Kentucky would be Kaminsky. He is a 6’11” big man that can step out and shoot the three like a guard as well as pass and put the ball on the ground. Dekker is 6’7” and can explode to the rim as well as hit the three-pointer. And on the defensive end, they don’t give up very much at all. In fact, they are a very gritty team. And these type of veteran teams with grit, skill and shooting are always dangerous, especially at this time of the year.

Kansas Jayhawks (they could face Kentucky in the Elite 8)

The Kansas Jayhawks are a talented team that is young in age but experienced in the fact that most of them were there last year and played good minutes. Junior forward Perry Ellis has been as steady as can be for the Jayhawks. And with the combination of bigs they have surrounding him, they can cause some problems for Kentucky inside and potentially can keep them off the boards. As far as on the perimeter, point guard Frank Mason III can shoot and assist. He will have to play under control and limit his turnovers versus a Kentucky team that is ruthless on defense. The X-factor for the Jayhawks versus the Wildcats would be Wayne Selden Jr. Kelly Oubre Jr will be able to match fellow freshman Trey Lyles in terms of length on the perimeter, but Selden can flat fill it up. And if it can come out, be aggressive and take it to the Wildcat guards, then the Jayhawks will really be cooking. And although Kansas may not have the talented depth that Kentucky does (who would actually), they still do have some depth that can play and give the starters a breather during the game. With their combination of depth, length, size and shooting, the Jayhawks would be tough for Kentucky.

Gonzaga Bulldogs (could face Kentucky in the Championship Game)

Gonzaga is a team that has played against underwhelming competition in their conference. And because of that, some don’t give them a good shot at all against Kentucky. But the thing about Gonzaga is they are experienced and talented. Point guard Kevin Pangos is getting everyone involved and he can shoot as well. The thing that may both him is the size of Kentucky’s guards, but he should be able to figure it out. Gary Bell Jr is solid as a starting guard beside Pangos and then Gonzaga has a rotation of big men that can cause them issues. Former Kentucky forward Kyle Wiltjer is the star player for Gonzaga and he has been in a zone recently. He can shoot the three and is big enough to take players in the post as well. There is nothing more he would enjoy than taking it to his former college team. The size, shooting and veteran players on this team can affect Kentucky, but the main thing for Gonzaga is to slow the game down. The faster the game is played, the more the Wildcats will pull away. Tempo would be key in this game.

Villanova Wildcats (would meet Kentucky in the Championship Game)

The Wildcats are different than any of the other teams on this list. They don’t have the prototypical size that another team would have in regards to going against Kentucky. But the big key for them inside would be center Daniel Ochefu. He can be huge inside against the Kentucky Wildcats inside in terms of patrolling the boards. And along with Ochefu inside helping patrol things, Villanova also has JayVaughn Pinkston. The versatile forward can go inside and out and him at the power forward position could be trouble for the Wildcats even though he is only 6’7”. With the shooters they have and the matchups they can create, Villanova can make it happen against Kentucky. And their coach, Jay Wright, believes they can as well. After the Big East championship game Saturday night, Wright had this to say about Kentucky, “We’re not Kentucky in terms of depth and talent, but we could beat them.”

Kentucky

I know they are not going to be facing themselves, but there is always some truth to the saying “ you can be your own worst enemy”. I believe if they come out and are lax one game, that could come back to bite them at the wrong time. They have shown at times that they are not exactly dialed in, but have been able to turn it on at the right time in some games as well. Another issue is if they begin to shoot three’s and jumpers too much. This team is a better shooting team than last year, but they are not just a team that can shoot from the perimeter. They are better when they attack the rim and put pressure on defenses with their skill and size. But they are still kids despite how great their performance has been so far, and that lends them to having a human moment and letting down at one point and time. They have done well so far to stand up and take everyone’s best shot, but all it takes is one game in the NCAA tournament.

These are the teams that can ruin Kentucky’s season. Ultimately, Kentucky is up against themselves the most, but these other teams can definitely cause some issues for them. Which team do you think gets them? Is it one of these teams or is it someone that isn’t even mentioned? Either way if they do or don’t get beat by someone, it will still be a compelling tournament to watch.

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter @General_MP or check me out on Facebook at Mike Patton-The General .

One Comment

  1. Lee Love

    March 21, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    yes sir this is a good assessment of challenging teams…Wisconsin is big and physical enough to cause problems will sure like to see that match up

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>