Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Kentucky's Basketball - WINNING! #8?

Clearly Boogiewoogie has defeated the NCAA with his words -- imagine what he could have done with his fire breathing fists

Before the season, I told you that without Enes Kanter this years UK team would be considered a success with a Sweet 16 and with Enes they were "Final 4 or bust". On the morning of the play-in games, my thoughts still stand. Enes is long gone and despite the valiant efforts, he was never freed. Kentucky had an up-and-down season but seem to be swinging back up just in time.

Yeah, this is Kentucky and "we don't settle for Elite 8's", we only hang banners for Final 4s - but this is still a team that lost 5 players to the first round of the NBA Draft last year. This is still a team that starts (occasionally) 3 freshman and only contains 1 senior. My expectations were tempered at the start of the year and they remain so at the conclusion, despite the SEC Tournament Championship.

Let's evaluate this years path and see how realistic the chances are of that Sweet 16.

Round 1:
Princeton (25-6) - The Tigers were one second away from not making it to the NCAA, before a last-second shot by Doug Davis put them on the right side of the 63-62 win against Harvard and gave the Tigers the Ivy League’s automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. Princeton has not been in the tournament since 2004 and are only three years removed from a 6 win season. This is a veteran team but one without NCAA experience and Kentucky's athleticism and skill should overpower the Tigers in Tampa.

Round 2:
West Virginia (20-11) - A made for TV rematch of last years regional final, the Mountaineers face a tough first round match up against the #12 seeded play-in game of UAB vs Clemson. Only having 2 days to prepare, Bob Huggins and team could easily drop the first rounder and avoid the Wildcats all together. Assuming they do make it to Saturday, the Huggie Bear squad brings in experience (6 NCAA's in 7 years and 7 Seniors or Juniors) with and depth (WVU has 10 players average 8 minutes or more a game). Look for DeAndre Liggins to matchup against Casey Mitchell, the leading scorer, but with a balanced attack featuring 4 players that average 10 points a game or more, if other members of the team step up - it could be a good day for WVA.

Round 3:
Ohio State (32-2) - Ohio State poses Kentucky's first matchup issue with Jarrod Sullinger. The top ranked Center in the 2011 Draft (if he declares) will be battling against Josh Harrellson and Eloy Vargas. While Sullinger had less than 10 points in regulation against a sub par Big East team Penn State - he showed he is capable of demanding the ball and getting to the free throw line. Kentucky has few fouls to give and could be hurt due to their lack of depth down low (and in general). I think
But at this time of the year it's all about WINNING! one game at a time. Princeton is Thursday at 2:45 Eastern and couple that with St. Patrick's Day and it should be a good one.

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