(Getty Images/Andy Lyons)
A sports writer at Ology.com, an entertainment and social media website, wrote an article yesterday afternoon covering “Four teams that could beat Kentucky in March.” Bison Messink has high praise for Kentucky and says without a doubt he thinks the Cats have the best team right now. He seems satisfied suggesting Kentucky is the favorite to win the National Championship, but gives a list of teams who he thinks have the best chance to knock them out of the NCAA tournament. Here’s a hint of how much of a stretch this is: Two of the teams Kentucky has already beaten.
No, we don’t need to send the hounds after this writer; he’s giving a reasonable prediction. Only the next-best teams will have a legitimate shot to beat Big Blue — and these are certainly four of them, albeit a distant next-best.
But here’s the thing about Kentucky — they’re so young, they had perhaps a steeper learning curve than any other team in college basketball this season. They’ve improved immeasurably since the December meeting with North Carolina.
Still, the Heels are the only team that comes anywhere close to matching Kentucky’s overall talent level, and North Carolina’s trio of Barnes, Zeller and Henson have the size to give the Wildcats some trouble.
Messink raises a good point that North Carolina’s size can give the Wildcats trouble. But it’s hard to take it seriously when Kentucky has a win over this team already. To say North Carolina has a shot to beat Kentucky, when the Tar Heels are 0-1 on the season versus the Cats, seems insignificant.
He also makes another good point: Kentucky has improved immeasurably since December. What he fails to mention is what North Carolina has done since then; being blown out by Florida State and escaping a few close-calls against weak ACC teams and then losing a ten-point lead with two minutes to play, at home, against Duke last night. North Carolina has loads of talent, but they just aren’t playing like it.
The Orange don’t have the high-end talent that Kentucky has in Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist, but what Syracuse does have is incredible depth of talent. With their unconventional offense and defensive schemes, Syracuse is always dangerous in March. And this season especially, Syracuse has loads of something Kentucky doesn’t have: experience.
The matchup that so many media members are calling for is Kentucky’s speed versus Syracuse’s zone. An unstoppable force meeting an immovable object; which will prevail? If there is one team that can beat Kentucky, it is probably the Orange. But don’t buy the “experience” excuse.
We’ve been over this before, and we know it means nothing, especially when you consider a one-game scenario where literally anything can happen. If the matchup were to happen tomorrow Kentucky would have one thing going for it: they’ve seen a zone before. It seems doubtful Syracuse has seen a team with quite as much speed as Kentucky.
The Buckeyes do not have the offensive fire power that Kentucky has, but when they are at the top of their game, they’re probably the best defensive team in the country. Kentucky is substantially more athletic, but Ohio State has some muscle to throw at the Wildcats.
The problem in drawing up a game plan to beat Kentucky is that the Cats can beat you on either side of the ball, and that’s unlike most teams. Traditionally, you’re either a stellar offensive team but still allow the other team to score, or you hold the ball so long you keep the score low for both sides. Well, Kentucky throws that logic out the window just blows teams out of the gym.
Messink only mentions Ohio State’s defense in his preview and their physical nature, but what he ignores is Kentucky has already beaten physical teams. Even if the Cats are muscled around, Kentucky is right there with the Buckeyes in being one of the best defensive teams in the nation. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague are two of the best on-ball defenders you can face, and Anthony Davis will straight-up block you. Pick your poison.
Like Syracuse, the Jayhawks have a veteran group, and Kansas almost as much size as Kentucky, and their older players are probably a little bit stronger. Kansas would be a longshot to take down the Wildcats, but they’re in the small group of teams that are capable of doing it.
Again with the experience argument, and again with a team that Kentucky has already beaten. Kansas is a better team than the one Kentucky played early in the season in Madison Square Garden, but, as I’m sure you’re aware of, so are the Cats.
Kansas has Bill Self on the sideline and Thomas Robinson on the floor, those two people alone can be enough to beat a lot of teams, but it still doesn’t stand a chance against Kentucky. Messink is right about Kansas being a long-shot, but honestly every team technically has a shot to beat Kentucky when the score is 0-0. That doesn’t mean you have to write about it being a possible upset.
The best part about this article, even though it’s not coming from a major national media member, is the realization it seems writers all over are getting. Something we fans have known all along. This Kentucky team is seriously good, and is far and away the best team in college basketball. It’s the hint of desperation from Messink, and his searching and stretching to see if something really exists capable of beating this team that is so funny. Messink didn’t do a bad job, but it’s like he’s basically come to the conclusion – without actually saying it – that Kentucky cannot be beat. Two teams that “could” beat Kentucky have already proven they can’t, so why are we having this argument?
There is no more chatter about Ohio State or North Carolina possibly being the best team, and other traditional powers are well below that mark. No discredit to these teams and others in the Top-10, but the fact of the matter is, you’ll need to hope for an off-day to beat Kentucky in March. These Cats are several cuts above the rest, and by my calculations, they plan to keep it that way.
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!
Bonus mini-game: One of these images is not like the other. Can you guess which is good and which is bad?