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Kentucky Wildcats Morning Quickies: Sweet Sixteen Ecstasy Edition

Are we having any fun yet, Wildcats fans? I think we are.

Kentucky's defeat of the Wichita State Shockers yesterday has caused much consternation in the basketball world. WSU was a big media favorite, and now they are trying to explain how a team with 10 losses could have pulled it off, and blaming the Selection Committee.

I have to admit, I am enjoying this a little too much.

Tweet of the Morning

A gameplan that almost worked.

Your Quickies:

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Kentucky basketball
  • SI's Luke Winn at the absolute top of his game:

    In the 38-hour buildup to Sunday's game -- which might have been the greatest round-of-32 matchup in the history of the expanded NCAA tournament -- it was subjected to two-outcome hype: That Wichita would either wipe out criticism that its unbeaten season was too much the product of a mediocre schedule; or that preseason No. 1 Kentucky, with its greatest-on-paper recruiting class of all-time, would save a season that was on the verge of falling apart in early March.

    What happened was not one outcome or the other. It was both. It was that these teams met too early in the bracket and waged a heavyweight fight fit for a Final Four. It was 40 minutes of punches and counter-punches and clutch shot-making and almost unbearable tension. It was the best NCAA tournament game since last year's Louisville-Michigan final, and whereas that was a classic that petered out in the final minute, this one had all that plus an ending: Wichita State running a sideline out-of-bounds set near its own bench with 3.2 seconds left, trailing by two.

    Read the whole thing. Trust me, it is absolutely worth every second of your time.

  • Effusive praise by Pat Forde, even for Calipari. Well, they say if you live long enough ...

  • When Julius Randle doesn't worry about his offense, you know the Wildcats have reached a milestone.

  • Kentucky, long seen as a favorite for Luke Kennard's services, will find out tonight.

  • Praise for Wichita State, absolutely deserved.

  • A lament for Wichita State from Mid-Major Madness. Consider:

    Both teams played as if the trophy was going to be handed out at the end of the game, and they were just going to call off the rest of the NCAA Tournament. That is how good that game was.

    That is why it hurt so much to have it end that way. That shot was supposed to go in. This run should have -- no, needed to keep going.

    Read the whole thing.

  • WCS saw the signs, and he was right. Consider:

    "We could have been the 16-seed playing the one-seed, and I don't feel like we're an underdog. The name just carries so much, you know, respect. We're respected around the country for our program. Not even the players in it. Just the program."

  • Not sure who wrote this, but:

    Remember how good Kentucky haters felt last year when the defending champs ended up in the NIT? Or this year when the preseason No. 1 ended up unranked?

    Experts said this was the downfall of the one-and-done system. Experienced teams with lesser talent like Wichita State would trump freshman dream teams like Calipari's.

    Or not.

    I think there should be some crow-eating going on in the Big Blue Nation as well by all those who abandoned the coach and this team after the regular season. You know who you are. I'm not calling you out by name, but those who have been here a while know. Repent, sinner.

  • Destiny? No, not really, but I'm happy to see it.

  • Rush The Court reacts to Kentucky's victory:

    It was the best game of the year. Kentucky and Wichita State played an absolute classic. Not only was it the best NCAA Tournament game this season, it will likely stay that way. And it easily topped any regular season game simply because all that was on the line. The Wildcats and Shockers threw punch after punch, made run and after run, until Fred Van Vleet’s three clanked off the rim at the buzzer. It’s unfortunate that one of these teams had to lose. This game was fitting of a national championship game rather than a round of 32 game, and it may have been the best round of 32 game in the history of the Big Dance.

  • Here we go.

  • SB Nation says UK finally played to its talent:

    Make no mistake: this was an upset. Wichita State had a tremendous and versatile roster and earned its previously undefeated record even with a soft regular season schedule. Kentucky was simply better in the second half on Sunday. March Madness might be all about the underdog, but there's nothing that wins on a basketball court more consistently than superior talent.

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College basketball
  • On the strength of schedule debate:

    Let’s say this about the SEC: If Kentucky and Tennessee had been able to beat Florida at least once in three tries apiece (twice total in six combined chances), it would be far, far easier to say that these tournament runs were a reflection of the teams seen all season, thereby buttressing the argument that the SEC was underrated. With the 0-6 bagel against Florida and the lack of a deep stack of non-conference wins, no, there’s simply no credible argument to make that the SEC was underrated during the season. Kentucky and Tennessee are on "hot runs," and that’s simply part of March Madness. Tennessee, moreover, avoided playing Duke in the round of 32.

    I appreciate the attempt at fairness, but it's only a nodding attempt, really. You can't always look at wins and losses — those often come down to one or two plays per game. Rather, you have to look at the competitiveness of the games as well as outcomes. That's harder and more time-consuming to analyze.

    A lot of SEC teams were very competitive with Florida this season, including Arkansas, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Auburn. Florida is great at making winning plays down the stretch, and that's what enabled them to avoid losses, but at least six games in the SEC season came down to those one or two plays. Credit Florida for making them, but don't think of them as dominating the games it played, that's not what happened.

    So while Florida's undefeated record looks dominant, the league was much more competitive than most critics give credit for, because they only look at outcomes and give no real credit for how the games were played or won. I'm not arguing that the SEC should have had more teams in the tournament — your analysis has to stop somewhere, and trying to analyze all the leagues that deeply just isn't really possible for the Committee — but anyone surprised to find all three SEC teams still standing has no real understanding of the SEC as it was this season.

  • On why KU underachieved. We've talked about this before:

    Wiggins played tentative, nervous, like the moment was too big. Each of his teammates, save Tarik Black and Conner Frankamp, played most of the game like it was someone else’s job to make a difference.

    They are out of chances now. This group will never be together again. Reunions are for champions.

    Without Joel Embiid, this was just an above average team worthy of perhaps a six or eight seed. Andrew Wiggins is not, and hasn't been all season, a dominant player. He defers too much, and even when he has great games, it's usually talent-driven rather than mindset-driven.

  • Tennessee physically crushes Mercer.

  • Indiana's Noah Vonleh to enter the NBA draft. Deserting a sinking ship?

  • Mutual respect defines UK and Wichita State.

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