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Why “I Like My Team” Entering The Tournament

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To steal from John Calipari’s quote book, “I like my team.”

While many of college basketball’s so-called experts overlook the SEC Champion Kentucky Wildcats in their predictions and projections, “I like my team.”

I like them over anyone else in the field, and here’s why…

 

Because they’re coming in hot.

Kentucky is on an 11-game winning streak entering the tournament, the longest of the season and the school’s longest since that 2014-15 team won 38 in a row. The Cats’ last loss came at Florida on Feb. 4 in De’Aaron Fox’s first game back from an ankle injury.

Kentucky is the only undefeated team among the tournament contenders since that date.

Because Cal is Swaggy Cal.

If you’ve kept up with Kentucky in recent years, you know there is a direct correlation between John Calipari’s personality (or swag) entering a season or tournament and then how that team performs. Since running through Nashville last weekend, Calipari’s mood exudes confidence and he is as swaggy as ever before.

“I’m excited. You can tell I’m jacked up to play basketball,” he said on last night’s call-in show.

Because the ESPN experts are picking against them.

And the ESPN experts are almost always wrong.

Because when the Cats are in desperate need of a late bucket, De’Aaron Fox is a proven closer.

As we saw in Nashville, De’Aaron Fox has elevated his game and proven he can go get a score when his team needs it. He was outstanding in the final minutes of the semifinal game and really throughout the entire tournament, which is why he was named MVP.

Calipari credits Fox’s improvement to finally playing through contact on his way to the rim. Fox is bumping back when he gets hit on drives to the basket, whereas he had been falling away from contact and throwing the ball up, hoping the official would bail him out with a whistle. By playing through the contact and continuing to attack, he is either getting all the way to the rim or making that official call the foul.

And the results speak for themselves.

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Because Fox might’ve found his shot. (And that is scary.)

Fox shot 60 percent from three-point land in the last five games, hitting six of his 10 attempts from long range. He had only hit nine three-pointers all year in the 29 games before that stretch.

Because Bam Adebayo is getting better by the day.

We assumed we would see Adebayo hit his stride somewhere in early February as many of Cal’s bigs have done in the past. That was not the case, which is okay, but Bam is doing it now.

The inner-beast in Adebayo, that we had hoped would be unleashed a little earlier in the season, is finally loose and dominating the paint.

Matt Norlander over at CBSSports.com named Adebayo one of his 10 players ready to break out, saying, “Adebayo is a beast down low who still hasn’t been in contact with his ceiling. I could see it coming in the tournament, and in fact think that will happen.”

Dominique Hawkins

Because the UK backcourt is now a four-headed monster.

Dominique Hawkins is no longer the senior leader who could come in in certain situations to help out in times of need.

Dominique Hawkins is now the senior leader who needs to be on the floor because he helps in so many ways and Kentucky is a better team because of him.

Because Derek Willis is playing good basketball, too.

The four spot has been shaky all season and teams have exploited it to their advantage when Derek Willis and Wenyen Gabriel aren’t producing. But now Willis is playing well and taken ownership of that position by rebounding and defending, along with what he already brings offensively.

Willis had 22 rebounds and seven blocks in the three games in Nashville.

Because Calipari has a way of getting his teams to the Final Four.

Four appearances in seven years…

How could you bet against him?

Because the defense is better than it has been all year.

The reboot, the tweak or whatever you want to call it has Kentucky playing its best defense entering the tournament. Guys like Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox and Derek Willis have really improved their effort on that end and the team as a whole is much better today than a month ago.

Because Kentucky is 14th in Adjusted Offense and 9th in Adjusted Defense.

The recipe for a champion.

Because North Carolina and UCLA don’t scare me.

It’s easy to say Kentucky is in a tough bracket with North Carolina and UCLA because they’re considered to be Final Four contenders, but who’s to say they’re better than Kentucky? North Carolina already dropped one to the Wildcats, and the current Kentucky team is better than the one UCLA beat in the regular season. You’re going to play a very good team in the second weekend of any region; and of those three likely going to Memphis, give me Kentucky.

Because everyone is beatable.

There isn’t one really good team out there that is a surefire thing to be in it in the end. Any of the top seeds can do it, and I like my team as much as any of them.

Because Malik Monk.

If (and it’s a big if) Malik Monk gets hot like we know he can, give me Kentucky over anyone, anywhere. KSR-6041

When they’re on, Monk and De’Aaron Fox are the best scoring duo in college basketball.

Throw that in with everything else and I really, really, really like my team entering the tournament.

Article written by Drew Franklin

I can recite every line from Forrest Gump, blindfolded. Follow me on Twitter: @DrewFranklinKSR

19 Comments for Why “I Like My Team” Entering The Tournament



  1. CatManDo
    8:15 pm March 14, 2017 Permalink

    Because Cat fans will take over Indianapolis and Memphis.



  2. BlueWildcat_99
    8:48 pm March 14, 2017 Permalink

    I’m with you, Drew. While we always want Malik to be on fire, we’ve seen just during the SEC tourney that even if he’s not, other players are stepping up. I believe that helps his confidence, knowing that he doesn’t have to take the game over. As Dickie V would say “He’s a PTPer Baby!” When the lights are brightest and the pressure is on, I’ll take Malik over anyone else in the country.



  3. psuegobigblue
    9:20 pm March 14, 2017 Permalink

    Great great take on this team and their ability to make it til the end. Love your insight and I really love where this team and their focus is right now! GO CATS!



  4. Wildcat Sheli
    9:22 pm March 14, 2017 Permalink

    Four Final Four appearances in the five FFs between 2011-2015 at UK (+ 2008 Memphis makes five appearances in eight FFs 2008-2015 for Cal). We’re so spoiled! We’ve never had a 2 year stretch under Cal without a Final Four appearance! By the numbers, it’s time to go back! Go ‘Cats! Go Big Blue!



  5. dballrb
    9:27 pm March 14, 2017 Permalink

    Because we have Briscoe…



    • Booby Petrino
      8:31 am March 15, 2017 Permalink

      Definitely an important role, and a miss for KSR for not saying it. He’s our leader. Even Hawkins said that.



  6. etp714
    10:42 pm March 14, 2017 Permalink

    Because we are who we are!!#BBN



  7. tubby b smith
    12:17 am March 15, 2017 Permalink

    good post Drew…all i keep hearing is uk fans are scared,sorry im not ucla caught us when we was blowing everybody by 20 and no defense and we beat Carolina which everybody forgets because they was too busy watching football. and if we cant beat Wichita we dont deserve to be in the tournment



  8. jonthes
    12:26 am March 15, 2017 Permalink

    This team is in a substantially better place as of now than the 2011 and 2014 FFists were. And in better position to win the title if they get there. I think there are going to be major upsets and the ACC will be victims of some of them. UK over NC or UCLA would not be upsets.



    • WatchutalkinboutWillis
      8:09 am March 15, 2017 Permalink

      Exactly right. I posted a while back this is the BEST a true freshman led team has done in the regular season since Cal has been here. That is amazing. We have already avenged two losses we had and we have an opportunity to avenge 2 more of the 3 remaining. Let’s do it!



    • fauxbobknight
      10:57 am March 15, 2017 Permalink

      ^^watchutalkinaboutwillis- Do you not consider the Anthony Davis led team the best freshman led regular season team?



  9. BigBlueBasketballs
    8:01 am March 15, 2017 Permalink

    This just got me 100 x’s more hyped than I already was. LETS GO!!!



  10. WatchutalkinboutWillis
    8:12 am March 15, 2017 Permalink

    The last time we had a senior from KY on the team we won it all…this year we have two…so…yeah…



    • Mathlete
      12:10 pm March 15, 2017 Permalink

      I’ve been thinking a lot about that title team lately and I think this team has a lot of similar character traits:

      Steady hand on a senior leader (Miller, Hawkins/Willis/Mulder)
      Experience at the 4 playing their best basketball (Jones, Willis)
      Elite shooter (Lamb, Monk)
      Point guard with a killer instinct (Teague, Fox)
      Relentless, inscrutable energy guy (MKG, Hawkins)
      Powerful force in the paint (Davis, Bam)
      Playing their best basketball going into the tournament



  11. Allison
    8:19 am March 15, 2017 Permalink

    I’ve been saying for the last couple of weeks that I feel really good about this team. I also really like the fact that the national media are sleeping on us. Our road to the Final Four makes it that much more meaningful when we get there! GO CATS!



  12. Wildfelinebeeline
    8:42 am March 15, 2017 Permalink

    KABOOM!



  13. bluetide
    2:42 pm March 15, 2017 Permalink

    Screw that Drew! Ya didn’t pick em in your bracket!



  14. SoCalCat
    3:45 pm March 15, 2017 Permalink

    Assuming we beat NKU, I think the Wichita State game will be a good barometer of where this team is. If we lose, then of course it wasn’t meant to be. But if they play a solid 40-minute game against a team looking for revenge I think that bodes will for the remaining games.



    • TBW3011
      6:29 pm March 15, 2017 Permalink

      Revenge? Is there a player on their team from the team we beat?