Kentucky Basketball: We Can Win This Thing

Kevin C. Cox

A good portion of the Big Blue Nation are complaining about the #8 seed and also are complaining about our path to the Final Four. It may sound harsh, but Kentucky made its own bed and has to do what it has to do to gain respect.

A week or so ago, I asked, "Kentucky Basketball: Wherefore Art Thou." This past week, the Wildcats answered the question. They are alive and kickin'. Thank goodness for that. After watching bad basketball for almost two whole seasons, this group of kids finally said enough is enough. The loss to the Florida Gators in Gainesville was apparently the impetus for the team to play for the name on the front of the jersey instead of the name on the back of the jersey.

So, here we are after the last three games, a #8 seed in a bracket that has a decent Kansas State, the nation's only undefeated team (Wichita State), Louisville and Duke standing in our path to the end of the rainbow. I don't think Kentucky has a legitimate gripe about the eight seed. We had ample opportunities this year to earn a higher seed. We haven't cut the mustard until this past Friday when we beat a tough LSU Tigers team and the up-and-coming Georgia Bulldogs before the one point loss to Florida.

In my mind, the only thing that keeps Kentucky from the Final Four is Kentucky. Like these newfangled light bulbs (I hate those things) that our "friends" in Washington have foisted upon us. Kind of like those light bulbs, this Kentucky team took a whole season to shine brighter and brighter.

The Wildcats were not beaten, but they did run out of time on Sunday against the #1 team in the country. Just in case the "experts" need to be reminded, Florida is an SEC team.  That begs the question, If Florida is the number one team and the SEC is as bad as they say, then how can Florida be #1? Don't  tell me how good the Big 10, Pac 12 and Big 12 are because the historical facts don't support your "expert" opinion(s).

Since 2004 (the last 10 years), the SEC has three national titles, the ACC has three, the old Big East has three and the Big XII has one. Don't you find it odd that the vaunted Big 10 has none, and the much-beloved Pac 12 also has none? Over the last 20 years, the SEC has six national champions (Arkansas 1, Florida 2, Kentucky 3, the old Big East has five (UConn 4, Syracuse 1, Louisville 1), the ACC has five (UNC 2, Duke 2, Maryland 1), the Pac 12 has two (UCLA 1, Arizona 1), the Big XII has one (Kansas) and the Big 10 has one (Michigan State). Does anyone get it that the Big 10 is the most over-hyped conference with little to show for it in terms of winning the big one? Also, I don't see any A-10 conference member that's won a national championship.

While I maintain that Kentucky is in a place that we've earned, Louisville has a legitimate complaint about their seeding. It is pretty obvious, to me, that the selection committee did the very thing necessary to keep either Kentucky or Louisville reaching the Final Four with the hope that neither gets there. The idea of either school winning another championship obviously has no appeal for either the selection committee or CBS. The hope is that Kentucky will lose to Kansas State, Wichita State, Louisville or Duke and the hope that Louisville will lose to Manhattan, NC State, Kentucky...you get the picture.

CBS obviously wants the Big 10 team, Michigan, to get to the regional finals against Wichita State, but they'll be just as happy with Duke if Michigan fails.

Back to our path, I've taken the liberty of going over to Statsheet.com with the idea of comparing the teams we will most likely have to play to hit the pot of gold (the Final Four) and I present it for your review here. I am projecting the regional final (if we make it) against either Duke or Michigan. I am assuming that our newfangled light bulb will shine its brightest over the next few weeks with it slowly getting brighter and brighter. My Final Four? Florida, Virginia, Kentucky and Creighton (you've got to have a Cinderella in there, right?). See the comparison here. I wouldn't put my money on a Big 10 team getting there. It is the equivalent of putting all your money on #17 at the roulette wheel with every bet.

Why the optimism? Kentucky leads all the teams in our bracket in the following: Blocked Shots per game, Total Blocks, Defensive Rebounds, Offensive Rebounds, Total Rebounds, Rebound Margin, Free Throw Attempts, and Free Throws Made. The keys to winning this thing is the reduction of turnovers, improving our free throw percentge and hitting those gimmees under the basket that Randle, Cauley-Stein and Johnson keep missing. And we have to respect, not fear, each team we have to play. We have to play to win and give up the concept of playing not to lose.

If these Wildcats play loose, we can win this thing because the talent is there and the light bulb has come on. The "experts" who choose to ignore the last three games do so at their own peril.

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