Kentucky’s road to another championship game, its third since 2012, is paved with what seems to be a minimal amount of potential potholes. That’s what happens when you’re sitting at 30-0 and people are debating whether they would take a field of 67 teams or just you when it comes to winning the national title.
There has been a handful of close calls for the Wildcats, though. Most notably, the recent victory at Georgia. We’ll take out any conference foes that could make the NCAA tournament as possible teams Kentucky will want to avoid.
What Georgia showed is that there’s a way to beat Kentucky. It takes a couple miracle shots, keeping Kentucky off the offensive glass and a whole lot of luck. So, with a team that’s been as dominant as Kentucky has been this season, who are the teams that Big Blue Nation won’t want to see? Obviously there isn’t anyone Kentucky should be scared to play. It’s 30-0 for crying out loud. But, for the sake of argument these three teams could give Kentucky the biggest problem in a one-game tournament.
Kentucky squared off against Wisconsin in an all-time classic last year in the Final Four, ending with an Aaron Harrison three for the win. A year later it should be another tough game since Wisconsin returns all but one player from last year’s team.
The Badgers are currently 26-3, with one of the losses coming without Frank Kaminsky, and rank as the fifth-best team, according to KenPom. On top of that, the Badgers grade out as the best offense in the country, using a slower tempo to work for good shots and having a unique player like Kaminsky.
So, why would Kentucky want to avoid Wisconsin? One reason is the matchup problems Kaminsky could cause. He would pull Willie Cauley-Stein away from the rim, taking away one of the best shot blockers in the country. Everyone on Wisconsin shoots at a high rate, with the three top scorers averaging over 50 percent from the field.
More importantly, Wisconsin doesn’t give up offensive rebounds. It leads the country in grabbing defensive rebounds, which helps a top-10 scoring defense. With revenge on the mind, Wisconsin is truly the only team Kentucky should fear come the NCAA tournament.
Arizona is quietly putting together another incredible season. After being the popular pick to win the title last year before Brandon Ashley got hurt, the Wildcats reloaded thanks to landing stud freshman Stanley Johnson.
Johnson will be the ultimate reason Arizona can test Kentucky. Johnson is a 6’7″ small forward who is averaging 14 points and seven rebounds per game. He provides the one mismatch Kentucky would struggle with. As great of a defensive team as Kentucky is, they still miss a small forward defender since Alex Poythress tore his ACL.
Arizona is also one of the only teams in the country that can match Kentucky’s size.
If there’s a place to criticize Kentucky lately, it’s been on the defensive glass, as weird as that sounds. But even against a smaller Georgia team, the Wildcats were getting beat more than they should when trying to grab defensive rebounds.
Now take out the Georgia team and put in the best offensive rebounding team in the country per KenPom. That would be the Baylor Bears, led by Rico Gathers Sr. and his 150 offensive rebounds this season. As a team, the Bears grab over 15 offensive rebounds per game.
They are also a strong defensive team, grading out as the 29th-best adjusted defense according to KenPom, but the sixth-best three-point defense. While Kentucky likes to get to the rim, this could take away the outside threat Devin Booker and Aaron Harrison provide that seems to spark a Kentucky run every game.