The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

48° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Versus column: What’s more likely: Kentucky running the table or Arizona reaching the Final Four

Since the tournament era began in 1938, only eight NCAA Division I men’s basketball teams have completed perfect seasons, including postseason tournament victories. No. 1 Kentucky is on the path to do just that. The last team to finish perfect was the Indiana Hoosiers back in 1976.

The wow factor that makes this Kentucky team different than any other before it is that it has up to 10 possible NBA draft prospects. ESPN Insider Chad Ford said that “this is the greatest college basketball team many [scouts and NBA management] have witnessed.” 

Sure, Kentucky has had its challenges this season. It earned a nail-biting victory in overtime against Ole Miss and a double overtime victory over Texas A&M in the middle of the season. But besides those close games, really no team has presented a test. 

The magic number is 17. That’s the highest possible number of games remaining that the Wildcats will have to play before they can walk off in discussion for the greatest college basketball team ever. 

I’m here to tell you that they are going to do it. With NBA talent, one of the best coaches and arguably the greatest recruiter of our generation, John Calipari, will lead the Wildcats to the promised land. 

Kentucky has trounced almost every opponent it has faced. Even UCLA head coach Steve Alford knows this team is the real deal. 

“I don’t know in my 20 years of coaching at the Division I level that I’ve coached against a better team than what this team looks like,” Alford said to SB Nation. “They have everything.”

By April, we will know if this Kentucky team has what it takes to make it to the big show. If it continues to play like it has been, I have no doubt that this team remains perfect. 

_______________

Follow Matt Wall on Twitter.


Despite having several teams make the Elite Eight over the past decade, Arizona men’s basketball hasn’t made the Final Four since 2001. Though that’s not to say the Wildcats haven’t gotten close. The 2003, 2005, 2011 and 2014 Arizona teams each lost in the Elite Eight by three points or less. 

The Wildcats have struggled to get over the hump during seasons in which it was National Championship or bust. The 2003, 2005 and 2014 teams are perfect examples of that, with 2011 being the outlier in that group. 

Sean Miller guided Arizona to its two most recent Elite Eight games and has suffered heartbreaking losses in each one, raising questions over whether or not Miller can win the big game. He has reached the Elite Eight three times but has failed to lead a team to the Final Four. 

There’s a good chance the Wildcats could get over the hump this season, even with their three loses to relative nobodies. Miller’s squad is perfectly suited for a tournament format where it’s win or go home, as long as it can make it out of the second and third rounds. 

Arizona has developed a tendency to playing at the same level as its opponent, both good and bad. That’s perfectly fine for those potential matchups in the Sweet Sixteen and farther, because the competition will be top-notch. 

Talented players like Stanley Johnson, T.J. McConnell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Brandon Ashley have the UA in position to stop just about anybody in the nation in a tournament format. It’s all a matter of execution and staying out of foul trouble. 

The Wildcats have been one shot away from winning for so long now that they’re almost due for a breakthrough. Behind a starting lineup that is deadly when on, Miller has a prime opportunity to get to the Final Four. 

_______________

Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

More to Discover
Activate Search