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Unlike Their Performance, Kentucky's VICTORY Over Notre Dame Was an All-Timer

Kentucky did not play to the best of their ability, but they did take a page out of Notre Dame's gaudy offensive efficiency and earned an improbable win.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The "luck of the Irish" is a phrase that was coined during the gold and silver rush of the second half of the 19th century.  It was due to a number of successful miners during the time being of Irish or Irish-American decent.  The phrase was used in a tone of derision rather than praise; as if to say it was all luck and no skill.

In today's pun and catch phrase riddled sports world, there are many personalities out there touting this phrase in their narrative and analysis; however, the "luck of the Irish" did not run out Saturday night for Notre Dame.  Luck was never a factor for either team, nor did it run out even if it was.

Notre Dame is a team deserving of more than an elite 8 loss. They are a very good team that earned every bit of their success.  I am confident they would be in the Final Four right now had they been placed in the East Region.  They are a team that was 3-1 vs. North Carolina and Duke this year, and came a hair from being 4-1 against UNC, Duke, and UK.  They executed a game plan to perfection, took advantage of every UK weakness, and even exposed some things that are not weaknesses.

From the outset, it was clear that Coach Calipari was refusing to allow Notre Dame to drive, dish, and hit three after three.  As if knowing this was coming, Mike Brey abused UK's pick and roll defense repeatedly.  If they did not pick, roll, and drive then they crashed the boards vigorously knowing we would over play for the block.  This resulted in multiple free throw trips, several tip-ins, and numerous put back layups.

They followed this game plan perfectly to the tune of 14 of their first 20 possessions in the 2nd half involved a layup, dunk, or free throws.  Not to mention that three of those other six possessions resulted in made three pointers.

ND Possessions

Notre Dame actually finished with a season high of 1.175 points per possession against a defense only giving up 0.828 per possession normally.  Notre Dame only turned the ball over ONE time in the second half and it was a shot clock violation.  Aaron Harrison stroked a 30 footer like it was a free throw, and threw the majority BBN crowd into a frenzy, only to see Jerian Grant hit a 25 footer just a few seconds later to answer.

The entire night when Kentucky did something to gain momentum, Notre Dame was there to answer.  They even did some things that we did not have an answer for, so how in the heck is it we won that game?  At halftime of the Louisville-Michigan State game, Calipari was interviewed and said the same thing.

The most blue-tinted glasses wearers within BBN will say it is simply destiny.  The conspiracy theorists will say it is the NCAA orchestrating a UK-Duke final to make money.  The truth though, is that Kentucky won the game because the best team in America refused to lose.

Kentucky saw a terrible mismatch as Karl Anthony-Towns was unapologetically abusing Zach Auguste on the block and they fed him as much as humanly possible.  Towns went off to the tune of 17-second half points on 8-of-8 shooting and led the team in points, assists, blocks, and rebounds.  Give Auguste credit for his offense on the night but his inability to defend, or even bother, Towns was a vital advantage.

Kentucky stuck to the offensive game plan and never panicked.  They allowed Towns to "eat" while they were happy to play the supporting role and dropping daggers when they needed.  Tyler Ulis' HUGE three pointer in the corner was even off a Towns pass after being nearly double-teamed.

Most importantly, and most impressively, Kentucky was poised enough to make every shot they took for the last 12 minutes and change of the game.  They also shot 75% in the second half.  Normally if you see those percentages you can safely assume the highlight reel will consist of some crazy circus shots and hero plays that worked out.  This was not the case with UK's second half, they methodically found the best shot on nearly every possession and did NOT waste an opportunity.  As good as Notre Dame is on offense, and as efficient as they were in the second half, they still ended up less efficient than the ‘Cats.

Kentucky has blitzkrieged blue bloods this year; they have struggled against lesser SEC opponents and have even won a few games they probably did not deserve to win.  However, Saturday night they took a top ten team's best shot, they took their perfectly orchestrated offensive game plan that exposed UK's weaknesses. And they still emerged victorious.

They had an offensive game from a guy expected to be invisible in Zach Auguste.  They were outcoached for the majority of the game, but Cal found the right lineup and exploited Auguste's putrid efforts while Brey amazingly did nothing to prevent it from happening.

Kentucky as a whole, did not play well. They turned it over carelessly, missed at point blank range a lot, and missed free throws in the first half.  But a guy named Charles Darwin once said

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives.  It is the one that is most adaptable to change."

There is no question Kentucky has the most talent this year and likely the best "team" mentality and poise... but what has them packing for Indianapolis (and winning 3-4 games this year they should not have, frankly) is their ability to adapt to the situation on the fly and make it work to their advantage. Kentucky "Out-Notre Dame'd, Notre Dame" in the second half and that is why it is such an impressive WIN.