BOSTON (CBS) – After dropping a 110-point load on another unfortunate SEC team, the Kentucky Wildcats appear to be unstoppable. They’re off to their best start in school history at 27-0. They have nine McDonald’s All Americans. Their starting (and reserve) front court is bigger than most NBA teams. And their coach goes through more first round draft picks than bottles of hair gel.
But in the crazy, chaotic, upset-ridden and buzzer beating culture of March Madness, anything can happen. Kentucky can lose. Here’s who has the best shot at beating them.
The third-ranked Zags are not necessarily battle tested, but they’re on a roll. Gonzaga has rattled off 21 straight wins since losing to Arizona, and that’s not by mistake. The Bulldogs lead the entire country in field goal percentage at 52.7%, which is important when facing a defensively-dominant team like Kentucky that offers little-to-no easy buckets. Gonzaga could also weather the storm of the Wildcats’ platoon system, as seven players average 20 minutes or more.
2. Notre Dame
Led by seniors Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton, the Irish are an experienced team with tournament prowess written all over them. What makes Notre Dame a legitimate threat to Kentucky is the way they attack on offense: by shooting the three. Attacking the interior of Kentucky almost always leads to an altered or blocked shot, so a perimeter attack seems like the best way to consistently score on the Wildcats. Notre Dame is equipped to do just that — as a team they’re shooting 40.4 percent from behind the arc this season.
Facing eight ranked opponents in the regular season, Duke certainly knows how to play (and win) big games. Aside from a two-game slide midway through the season, the Blue Devils have been consistently dominant in their own regard this year. Quite frankly, whoever is going to beat Kentucky is going to need big performances from their best players. And barring a serious injury, freshman phenom Jahlil Okafor and senior guard Quinn Cook appear up to the challenge. Not to mention freshman guard Tyus Jones, who played out of his mind last week against UNC. Watch out for the Blue Devils, Coach Cal.
Kentucky is special for their size down low, which helps them control the glass on both ends of the floor. Rick Pitino’s Cardinals are just fine at that too, averaging 39.1 rebounds per game, a smidge better than Kentucky’s 38.7. Forward Montrezl Harrell is having a coming out party this season, and his size and strength could offset the likes of Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns.
Yes, you read that right. Louisiana State University.
Rivalries in college basketball always produce great, close games. Think UNC-Duke, Syracuse-Georgetown, Michigan-Michigan State. After their last handful of matchups, add Kentucky-LSU to the list. Last week the Tigers almost pulled off the upset at home, narrowly losing 71-69. Last season, they beat Kentucky 87-82 and lost in overtime 77-76 in the second matchup. For whatever reason, LSU knows how to give Kentucky a run for their money, but at 19-8, they need to make the bracket before they can bust it. Geaux Tigers.
Disagree with my selections? Leave me your picks in the comments section below!