Do you smell that? It smells like a potential upset.
After completing three-quarters of KSR’s BBN Jam Tournament, none of the one-seeds have been fazed by their first round competition. Up until this point, none of the one-seeds have faced a John Calipari-coached team.
Following Coach Cal’s National Championships campaign, Nerlens Noel committed to the Cats on ESPN by showing off a UK logo in the back of his signature flat top. The top-ranked center in America certainly played like it. Noel was a first team All-SEC selection, SEC Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year. He cast a wide net across the paint as one of the best shot-blockers in school history. Noel’s 12-block performance against Ole Miss is one of the most dominant of the Calipari era.
Unfortunately, Noel’s season ended early when he tore his ACL in pursuit of a Florida Gator in transition. Without Nerlens, Archie Goodwin was forced to carry the heavy burden, ultimately unable to lift UK into the NCAA Tournament after falling to Vanderbilt in the first round of the SEC Tournament.
The 1998 team won the last game they played. Dubbed the Comeback Cats, no deficit was too large for Tubby Smith’s first team to overcome. Led by the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, Jeff Sheppard, the Wildcats trailed by double digits in their final three games to win Kentucky’s seventh national championship, the second in three years.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Noel’s accolades were impressive without playing a full season. His counterpart’s resume is much lengthier. Like Sheppard, Nazr was a two-time NCAA Champions. In his final season he was the best center in the conference, named first team All-SEC, sparking an 18-year professional career. Few in this tournament played longer professionally than Nazr.
It’s difficult to pick a winner of the matchup in the paint. Noel’s shot-blocking ability actually should give the 8-seed a slight edge inside. They do not have an edge from behind the three-point line.
Archie Goodwin’s name did not describe the trajectory of his outside shots. Despite his long-range deficiencies, he could get to the rim and score, even against a bigger guy like Sheppard. In the final four games of the ’98 season Sheppard averaged 19.3 points per game. He needs a comparable effort to ensure they are not the first one-seed one seed to exit the tournament.