Kentucky is only four games away from capping a perfect season, and it is looking like they will pull it off. However upsets happen and it is not going to be an easy road for the Wildcats. But what does it take to beat one of the best college basketball teams of all time? Below are some of the ingredients that a team will need to take down this Kentucky powerhouse.
Kentucky is not only the most talented team in America, but they are also the tallest. There is no team in the country that can match up to them, but if a team wants a chance against the Wildcats they better have some big bodies on the court.
The team that best fits this ingredient would be Arizona; they have the ability to outrebound their opponents by a large margin, and can contest shots that have come easy for Kentucky’s big men this season. Kaleb Tarczewski is a large presence in the middle, and although he is not as skilled as the Kentucky bigs, he is a large body and can match the size of Cauley-Stein and Towns in the post.
No team will be able to beat Kentucky with a team full of freshmen. Kentucky has a unique roster this season, as they actually have many returning players with tournament experience from last season, like Willie Cauley-Stein, Aaron and Andrew Harrison, and Alex Poythress. Only teams that have veteran leaders and multiple starters with experience in big games will be able to match the experience and level of competition that Kentucky brings to the table.
The team that best fits this ingredient would be Notre Dame. They don’t have a single freshman on their team, and recently battled through a brutal ACC tournament, beating both Duke and North Carolina within a 24 hour span as well as taking down Northeastern and Butler in the first two rounds of the tournament. Wichita State is another team with a lot of experience. Even though they didn’t play quite the schedule Notre Dame had to play to get into the tourney, they have made the tournament the prior two seasons, and were ousted last year from the tournament by none other than the Kentucky Wildcats themselves.
A Player That Can Take Over the Game
But that isn’t all it will take. Last year in the tournament we saw Kentucky fall to UConn, mainly fueled by the efforts of star guard Shabazz Napier (currently on the Miami Heat). If a team could have a player that would be hard for Kentucky to contain or shut down, then they would be one step closer to possibly taking down Kentucky.
The best man for this ingredient would be Frank Kaminsky of the Wisconsin Badgers. Kaminsky is a mismatch for any team; in a seven foot frame, Kaminsky has the ability to shoot the three just as well as any one of his Wisconsin teammates. He is difficult to guard, and bringing the bigs of Kentucky out to the perimeter would leave them vulnerable to playmakers on the inside like Nigel Hayes. Kaminsky is able to dominate offensively, or open up opportunities for the players around him, and that is why he is the biggest threat a single player currently issues to Kentucky.
Going along with stretching the floor, Kentucky’s nine McDonald’s All-Americans are able to simply exhaust teams by running new players in every few minutes who are just as talented as the players they take out. To even attempt to dismantle Kentucky a team would need to have a deep team that could keep up with Kentucky’s substitutions. The perfect fit for this ingredient would be Wisconsin. Wisconsin, while having Kaminsky lead the way, has several guys that can be threats in the game at any given time. Nigel Hayes, Sam Dekker, and Bronson Koenig are all players that are able to share the wealth both offensively and defensively, providing Kaminsky with good depth and allowing the team to give options to many players so Kentucky can’t focus on only one player.
With Kentucky’s fresh bodies coming in every few minutes, it makes it near impossible for teams to keep up a fast pace against Kentucky, who has the ability to run the court better than any other team in the nation. Teams that have tried to quicken the pace against them have ended up getting blown out by a much larger amount than teams that have played a slower tempo against them. The team that fits this ingredient the best would be Northern Iowa, despite an unfortunately extremely small chance of actually meeting with Kentucky. They rank in the bottom five in possessions per game, showing a slow pace and a strong performance on defense. This is a perfect spot for Virginia had they not been eliminated, so this creates Northern Iowa to be the best team left for this category.
After reviewing these ingredients for the perfect recipe for success (height, senior leadership, star-player, depth, game pace), the most likely team to compete against this obvious favorite in this year’s tournament is Wisconsin.
With an unguardable, one of a kind player in Frank Kaminsky, elite size, and a deep enough roster to not be overpowered by Kentucky, the Badgers could give Kentucky their only loss on the season if they are able to meet up in the Final Four. Wichita State and Arizona also have several of the key parts needed to beat this basketball Goliath, but are not as complete of teams as Wisconsin is. Plus with momentum coming out of winning the Big 10 tournament and their first two games in the NCAA tournament, the Badgers could be smelling upset if they are able to make the trip down to Indianapolis.