Will Kentucky finish with Perfect Record in 2015? Here’s who can beat them

kentucky-2015If you’re getting ready for 2015 March Madness betting, then chances are that you’ve already given Kentucky an automatic pass to the championship. After all, the Wildcats have been truly dominant this year while posting a 29-0 record and garnering all 65 first-place votes.

Assuming Kentucky can finish the last part of the season strong and make a run through the 2015 NCAA Tournament, they’ll become college basketball’s first undefeated team since the Indiana Hoosiers in 1976. So does Bobby Knight have reason to begin sweating his legacy?

If we simply base this off history – where only seven teams have run the table – then no, Knight’s place as coaching the last undefeated team will continue. But then again, the Wildcats are about four-fifths of the way towards tying the ’76 Hoosiers. So who can taint their record before they complete the historical feat? Here’s our odds on which teams have the best chance.

1. Wisconsin: 25-3 record, 8-to-1 odds of winning

frank-kaminsky-wisconsinWhile Wisconsin lost a close game at #14 Maryland, they are still in the hunt for a number one seed come tournament time. Senior 7-footer Frank Kaminsky (17.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG) continues to be one of the toughest matchups in the nation with his ability to also hit three’s (39.7%). The Badgers also close out the boards and play strong fundamentally, which will serve them well against any cold-shooting team – even Kentucky. Additionally, they can employ a slow tempo that frustrates more-athletic teams.

2. Arizona: 26-3 record, 12-to-1 odds of winning

Led by freshman forward Stanley Johnson (14.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG), Arizona still has a solid shot at a number one seed when the 2015 March Madness field is decided. The positives of this team include that they’re extremely athletic and can actually match up with Kentucky in this regard. However, the downside is that they’re also upset prone and can look very average at times.

3. Gonzaga: 29-1 record, 12-to-1 odds of winning

NCAA Basketball: St. Joseph at GonzagaThe huge benefit for Gonzaga is that, like Kentucky, the Bulldogs are destined for a top seed in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. This is of course due to the fact that they play in the weak West Coast Conference. But despite the competition level, the Zags are no doubt worthy of being a national champion. Especially when considering their strong backcourt and big size in the paint. 6’10” junior forward Kyle Wiltjer (14.6 PPG) is part of the size factor, and he can also step out and hit the three (46.5%).

4. Duke: 26-3 record, 12-to-1 odds of winning

Jahil Okafor (18.4 PPG, 9.4 RPG) is considered by many to be the best player in the nation, while fellow freshmen Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones have also played really well. Considering all of the talent here, Duke has an opportunity to thwart Kentucky’s title plans. However, they’ll have to overcome a lack of senior leadership to make a strong run through the tournament.

5. Virginia: 27-1 record, 12-to-1 odds of winning

After winning 30 games last season, the Cavaliers are once again making a run at this number in the always-tough ACC. Their lone loss came to Duke, but they’ve beaten everybody else through a combination of balanced scoring and excellent offense. On top of this, they’re also very athletic and are another top team that can match Kentucky in this respect.

Freshman D’Angelo Russell propelling Ohio State to Victory

dangelo-russell-ohio-stateOhio State lost plenty of talent last year off a squad that went 25-10 (10-8 in Big Ten) and was bounced from the first round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament by Dayton. So there was little reason to think that the Buckeyes would do much better this season. Yet Ohio State is currently ranked 20th in the nation, boasting an 18-6 record and 7-4 mark in the Big Ten. So what’s the secret to their success this year? A super-freshman by the name of D’Angelo Russell.

Ever since stepping onto campus, Russell has assumed leadership of this team, from taking the big shots to leading the Buckeyes in scoring (19.4) and rebounds (5.7). Just for good measure, Russell is also second on the team in assists (6.4) and steals (1.8). And what’s amazing is that few expected the dramatic impact that the Louisville product would have so early on.

Rise to Number One

Russell began his high school basketball career at Louisville’s Central High School, but later transferred to the nationally ranked Monteverde Academy in Florida. Upon graduating from Monteverde, the 6’5″ guard was a coveted player, however, nowhere near the same level as class elites like Jahlil Okafor of Duke or Karl-Anthony Towns of Kentucky. But as the college season progresses, it seems as if Russell is the one on basketball analysts’ minds.

ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla believes that Russell is the “(NBA) draft’s most skilled player.” Of course, Ohio State coach Thad Matta also put in a good word for his player. “D’Angelo has a great understanding of the game of basketball,” Matta said. “He’s a very diligent worker in terms of doing the best he possibly can. He wants to be a great player. Before practice, after practice, you see him in there working.”

Focusing on the Now

OSUBBall24 KR 07.JPGRussell isn’t worried about the draft or his future right now, as he said, “I don’t really keep in touch with those scenarios. Those are personal goals that will come up after the season. Right now, I’m just worried about our team.”

It is this focus that’s served Russell so well as his team marches towards a likely NCAA Tournament bid. Ohio State’s 2015 March Madness seeding will be heavily impacted over the course of these next few weeks. So it’s definitely good that Russell doesn’t have one eye towards the NBA when the Buckeyes are at such a critical point.

But when the season is over, there’s a very good chance that Russell will be entering the Draft. And when he does so, don’t be surprised if he’s the first player taken off the board.