While the SEC Tournament didn’t end the way Kentucky Wildcats fans wanted it to, I don’t think many of them are disappointed in what happened on Sunday evening as the Selection Committee’s NCAA Tournament seedings and regions were released.
A great sigh of relief was heard when the Cats were not placed in the East with the Duke Blue Devils only to be followed by a groan when they weren’t placed in the South with the Virginia Cavaliers.
But in the end, the Cats only have themselves (and 3 minutes of putrid officiating) to blame for not being in the Yum! Center for the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight.
For me, that disappointment was quickly replaced with optimism as the Midwest Region was revealed.
The Opportunity Bracket
As I survey the bracket, I see teams with weaknesses that Kentucky can exploit. All season long, the Cats have struggled against length and athleticism. Teams like Duke, LSU, and Syracuse all have that. UK also has had battles with Tennessee because they are so similar.
There aren’t teams like that in Kentucky’s region. The Midwest is full of teams with good guard play but very limited size. Kentucky has done very well against teams like that, the Auburn Tigers and the Florida Gators for example, in the latter half of the season.
The one bugaboo that we could point to early in the season is three point defense. Kentucky has vastly improved in that area and I like all of the matchups that I can see heading into the Sweet Sixteen.
And for those fans worried about Houston: don’t be.
The Houston Cougars have a gaudy record against AAC teams. Yes they beat the LSU Tigers but that was at the start of the season and both teams are vastly different. The Cougars were defeated by Tacko Fall and the UCF Knights on College Gameday. They had to hang on this past weekend to beat Penny’s NIT Memphis Tigers team and they were destroyed by the Cincinnati Bearcats in the AAC title game.
The Cougars have some good players, but top to bottom, it’s a great matchup for UK.
Really, the only worry I have in the region is UNC. But, like I said earlier, I like the matchup for Kentucky. UK’s size negates UNC’s rebounding, and Coby White will have a hard time getting to the rim. They don’t have a bruising or long interior therefore Kentucky has the advantage.
The Cats have a clear path to the Final Four. All they have to do is execute.
Swaggy Calipari should make you confident
Normally after the draws come out John Calipari is very critical of the NCAA Committee’s job. He usually is full of hyperbolic conspiracy theories about how Kentucky is getting screwed.
But Sunday evening we saw a very different Calipari. A confident Calipari that’s ready to go ball.
Cal: “I feel good going in. Let’s go. Let’s play the games.”— CoachCal.com (@CoachCalDotCom) March 17, 2019
Rick Bozich of WDRB did a good job of breaking down the reasons why Kentucky got a great draw in the NCAA tournament. His reasoning is exactly on par with what I’ve been saying in this post and Calipari knows what he’s going up against.
Cal knows he has the size, the shooting, the defense, and the talent to go up against any team in the region.
Cal feels good, so should you.
Regular season goals not met?
As we dive into the postseason, let’s reflect on the regular season for a moment.
I’m sure John Calipari and his team had goals that they wanted to achieve for the regular season. I’m not privy to those goals, but if I were to guess, they were probably something like this:
- Win the SEC regular season title
- Win the SEC tournament
- Play in Louisville for the Regional Final
- Put yourself in a good spot for a Final Four
While Kentucky whiffed on the first three goals, the ultimate goal was met as far as being in a good spot for the Final Four. And in the end, that’s really all that matters.
I’m not one of these people that thinks the regular season doesn’t matter at all. But at the same time, college basketball relevance isn’t at its zenith until the tournament.
While the regular season could be viewed as a disappointment in some respects, Kentucky did enough to get a favorable seeding and draw. Also, they went 3-1 against their most bitter rivals in regards to Duke, UNC, Louisville, and Kansas.
Keion Brooks is a baller
Kentucky fans got some good news during the halftime of the Kentucky vs. Alabama game as five star wing Keion Brooks committed to UK.
Brooks is a great get for John Calipari. His 2020 team is loaded with long, athletic guys. With the addition of Brooks, Calipari now has options with his guard rotation. If he can get one of either Tyler Herro or Ashton Hagans to stay, Kentucky is going to be loaded with speed and scoring.
Keion Brooks is the kind of true small forward that Cal has struggled to land in his UK tenure. The one question for Brooks is going to be motor. That’s the one reason that he’s not a consensus top-15 guy.
But Calipari can bring that out in just about any player so I wouldn’t be worried about that.