Kentucky’s (almost) domination

NateFriebergHeadshotWebThe overwhelming favorite entering the annual “March Madness” college basketball tournament were the University of Kentucky Wildcats, posting an undefeated record in the regular season.

 But, as years before have shown, a terrific regular season does not guarantee anything when it comes to this crazy 60-team playoff system. I must admit I had my doubts. A team that did not know the pain and agony of defeat could not possibly have the mental toughness to push through those tough close games.  

 University of Vermont junior and lifelong basketball fan Hayden Pochop seems to have his doubts as well. “I feel like you need to face defeat before accomplishing victory, which leaves them vulnerable in these final games of the NCAA tournament,” he said.

 As the tournament has played out, Kentucky has won me over with their calm and collectiveness in the later parts of the games. Whether it was the tight last game against Notre Dame, defeating the Irish by only two points, or a dominant victory over a talented West Virginia side in the Sweet 16, Kentucky has continually gotten the job done and won the game.

 “It’s the best college basketball team I’ve ever seen,” said senior Tanner Palin, an avid college basketball and March Madness fan. Kentucky’s talented lineup prides itself on one simple tactic: depth. The Wildcats are known for having abrupt five-player changes in order to switch the momentum of the game. This is the distinguishing factor that is holding the Wildcats on a level above their opponents.  As a team, they are able to pressure and outwork opposing teams for a full 40 minutes while making constant substitutions and keeping all players fresh.

PHOTO COURTESY OF JONATHAN KRUEGER, THE KENTUCKY KERNEL Willie Cauley-Stein of the Kentucky Wildcats shoots over the Notre Dame defense Mar. 28.
Willie Cauley-Stein of the Kentucky Wildcats shoots over the Notre Dame defense Mar. 28.

The opposition simply can’t keep up with this unique luxury of the Wildcats. This strategy has proven successful for the team as they approach a Final Four contest against a very talented Wisconsin side. This Wisconsin team may prove to be the Wildcats’ toughest opponent yet, led by one of the nation’s best players, Frank Kaminsky.

Senior Max Grascher had no doubt in his mind on the outcome of Kentucky’s strategy. “Kentucky will win the NCAA Division I championship,” he said.

 It’s hard not to be impressed with this team holding their opponents to a minuscule 53.9 points per game. This may be one of their most impressive statistics. Rarely do you see such a talented young team so committed to the defensive end of the floor.

This team seems to have an understanding of the small subtleties necessary to win games. According to  Grascher, Kentucky coach John Calipari “is a winner in any situation, adding in his lineup which is almost entirely NBA draft-ready, they can’t be beat.”

 This weekend will prove very interesting as the Kentucky Wildcats look to utilize the team’s depth to complete every college basketball team’s dream: a perfect season and a national championship.