Arizona could stand in Way of Kentucky’s Quest for Perfection

kentucky-2015-undefeatedIs 2015 March Madness merely the last formality in the Kentucky Wildcats’ quest for perfection? It seems that way to many after Kentucky rolled through the SEC Tournament to improve their record to 34-0. Of course, while the Wildcats have already established themselves as one of the greatest college basketball teams ever, there are plenty of really good teams sprinkled throughout the field. And one of these is no doubt another Wildcats squad – the Arizona Wildcats.

After grabbing the No. 2 seed in the West, Arizona has their work cut out if they’re to get by No. 1 seed Wisconsin. However, judging purely on future pro talent, there may be no school more capable of ruining Kentucky’s quest for perfection – a team they could potentially meet in the 2015 Final Four.

“They’re the one team that could take out Kentucky,’’ a veteran NBA scout told Forbes writer Mitch Lawrence. “They should have gotten the No. 1 seed in the West, not Wisconsin. They have the kind of team that can beat Kentucky.’’

This talented Arizona team is led by freshman Stanley Johnson, who should easily be a lottery pick next June, despite averaging just 14.1 PPG this year. “He’s a man-child,’’ the NBA scout said. “He’s 6-6 or 6-7, 245 pounds, and he’s built like a linebacker. But here’s the deal. He’s got a lot of skills. He can shoot it and he can handle the ball. He rebounds. If he comes out, he’s going to be a top lottery pick.”

arizona-stanley-johnsonThen there’s 6-7 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who has a 7-foot wingspan that creates nightmares for opponents on offense. Even top players in the Pac-10 have only averaged 12 PPG and shot 35% against the rangy Hollis-Jefferson, who’s also chipped in 10.8 PPG and 6.8 RPG.

6-9 junior forward Brandon Ashley is also key to Arizona’s chances of beating Kentucky, or anybody else. The big man is averaging 12.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG and almost one block. Veteran point guard T.J. McConnell, who averages 6.4 APG, will be directing these players through both his passing and leadership. Add in 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski and this is one very well-rounded team.

Of course, the problem with playing Kentucky is that they have insane depth and loads of talent, beginning with potential No. 1 overall NBA-Draft-pick Karl-Anthony Towns. Willie Cauley-Stein, whom some have projected to go in the top 10, is another player who creates huge matchup difficulties. There are plenty of other excellent players on John Calipari’s squad, but the problem is that with such a deep team, Calipari has the option of rotating players in like hockey substitutions.

Few teams can either prepare or match up with Kentucky, but Arizona at least has an opportunity to do the latter. Once again, they have the kind of range and length that can disrupt shots, even from a bunch of first-rounders like what KU boasts. And their coach, Sean Miller, has the experience to take his team deep in the tournament, even if it means going through Kentucky in the Final Four. “He’s a really good coach,’’ the NBA scout explained. “His kids respond to his coaching and he knows what he’s doing. He’s not getting out-coached by anybody.”

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.