For the first time since Coach John Wooden’s great UCLA teams from the mid-60s to the mid-70s I’m picking one team against the field in the NCAA tournament.
That’s right. I think the Kentucky Wildcats are that good.
Athletically, it’s men against boys. The Cats have size, speed, quickness, strength, depth and, most importantly, talent. And they have more experience than Coach John Calipari likes to admit. NBA lottery pick Willie Cauley-Stein, a 7-0 defensive whiz, is a junior. Twin 6-6 guards, Aaron and Andrew Harrison, are sophomores, as is 7-footer Dakari Johnson. Seven-foot freshman Karl-Anthony Towns may be the nation’s best player.
I won’t even get into the McDonald All-Americans who get little playing time.
Oh, I think Wisconsin could upset them if the Badgers play the perfect game. I give Gonzaga and Arizona itty bitty chances, but no one else. Yes, I know the Cats had a couple of scares during their 34-0 run but this is March.
It’s sort of a shame because if you took Kentucky out of the mix this could be the greatness March Madness ever. There’s more parity between the major powers and the mid-majors than ever. I expect to see more upsets based on seeding than we’ve ever seen.
The one-and-done rule has hurt the traditional powers far more than the mid-majors. They were never getting those players anyway. The mid-majors tend to be far more experienced and it’s among those schools where you usually find the late-bloomers.
Florida has often been an exception to that line of thinking about the majors and that’s why the Gators – until this season of course – have traditionally been so strong.
This year that major exception is Wisconsin. Player of the Year candidate Frank Kaminsky, a 7-foot senior, could barely dribble a basketball and chew gum at the same time when he was a freshman. The Badgers are loaded with upper classmen who have outplayed their recruiting rankings.
Gonzaga has an interesting mix of talent and size and Arizona has a couple of lottery picks and some deadly shooters. May, just maybe, they could pull off a stunning upset.
Some other teams can stick with Kentucky for a while but not for 40 minutes. The Cats don’t wear down as the game progresses and because no one plays more than 25 minutes.
Capilari just keep reloading and reloading and reloading.