The 5 Teams who can beat Kentucky
So you are taking a last look over your 2015 NCAA Tournament Bracket and you are wondering if picking Kentucky to win it all is the right move. I’m going to come out and say it, yes, Kentucky doesn’t look like they are going to lose any time soon. But if you are looking to pick an upset, there are 5 teams in the tournament who would have a solid chance against the Wildcats if they faced them in the big dance.
1. Wisconsin Badgers – The first chance the Badgers would have to face the Wildcats would be in the Final Four, something the two teams did only a season ago. In that game, Wisconsin came in as the higher seed, and the favorite. But the Wildcats pulled out a thrilling 1 point, come from behind victory in one of the best games of the season. If the Badgers are going to have any chance against an even better Kentucky team this year, they will have to do it on the defensive side of the ball. Wisconsin finished the regular season in the top 10 in points allowed per game and play unbelievable team defense. They will likely have to take that defense up another notch against a Kentucky team that is taller and longer than any team they have faced all season.
2. Villanova Wildcats – Nova is out to prove that they aren’t just the other Wildcats in the bracket. They played significantly tougher conference competition in the Big east than Kentucky faced this season. What has Villanova fans hopeful, is the way that they have played against teams with similar size as Kentucky. Kentucky is used to utilizing their height advantage to get easy looks near the basket. While Nova isn’t as long as Kentucky, they are solid, and have beat up teams with height advantages (see 105 points against St. Johns). No St. Johns isn’t nearly the team Kentucky is, but if any team has a chance against Kentucky, it might be Villanova. The two Wildcats clubs would have to meet in the National Championship.
3. Virginia Cavaliers – The Cavaliers have all the tools necessary to beat Kentucky. While many teams have attempted to slow down Kentucky and control the pace of the game, forcing the Wildcats into a half-court offense, Virginia has the talent to actually do it. Their defense in the paint is better than anyone that Kentucky has played and could keep the Wildcats from getting easy looks near the basket. The fear for Tony Bennett’s team would be injuries. The health and effectiveness of Justin Anderson will likely make or break Virginia in the tournament. If Anderson is healthy, the Cavaliers have a great chance of making their way to Indianapolis for a potential matchup with the Wildcats.
4. Arizona Wildcats – Arizona has had a fantastic season and are one of the few teams in the NCAA Tournament field that can match Kentucky’s size, with the 7 foot duo of Dusan Ristic and Kaleb Tarczewski. Arizona stormed through the Pac-12 tournament relatively unchallenged and seem to be playing their best basketball down the stretch. Arizona has been able to get quality shots on a consistent basis and rank 6th in field goal percentage in the nation. They will have to rely on easy looks to maximize every possession against the defensive juggernaut that is Kentucky.
5. Gonzaga Bulldogs – Gonzaga has had just about as quiet a season as you could have and finish with only 2 losses. The Bulldogs lost at Arizona by 3 points in overtime, and to a good BYU team. Outside of those two games, the Zags have dominated, playing very few close games, winning by double digits more often than not. The key this season for Gonzaga has been their ability to get quality shots. Gonzaga ranks 1st in the nation in field goal percentage, and 6th overall in assists. The Bulldogs know how to get good looks at the basket and swing the ball as well as anyone in the nation. They also are 2nd in the nation in rebounding, which could be key to keeping Kentucky from having multiple shots each possession. The Bulldogs key player is 6’10 Kyle Wiltjer, a transfer from Kentucky.
If you sensed a theme between these teams, then you are right. All 5 of these teams play fantastic team defense and all have the inside presence to hold the Wildcats off in the paint. If any one of them gets a chance, they will have to hope that they are able to continue that restless defense inside, against the most athletic team in the NCAA.