Around The Hill

By Greg White

Maroon-News Staff

With March Madness quickly approaching, Kentucky may not only enter the tournament with an unbeaten record, but also with a target on their back. For the past few seasons, Kentucky has been the talk of college basketball.

Whether it was sweeping March Madness with Anthony Davis or losing in the championship game last year, Calipari and company have stayed in the spotlight. Kentucky’s Coach Calipari has employed a rotational system in which he has a “Blue” squad and “White” squad. What is so amazing about these squads is that even though they play in the same system, they play differently against the same opponent. If Willie Cauley-Stein is on the floor, Kentucky is focused on playing strong defense, creating fast breaks and dominating the game with offense. However, if Tyler Ulis is on the floor, Kentucky is focused on playing a slower game in which they break their opponent down with clever passing and high percentage shots. With these contrasting styles of play and Calipari mixing the squads around throughout each game, Kentucky is no longer just a team, but a target that every other team wants to surpass.

When looking at Kentucky’s current schedule, it is relatively relaxed in terms of competition with the exception of teams such as Kansas, Louisville, UNC and Texas. Kentucky has already faced #8 Kansas and #9 Louisville once each this season, winning both contests with relative ease. When looking at the rest of Kentucky’s upcoming schedule, they should win all of these games and use them as practice to test out different schemes and refine their system of play. Therefore, Kentucky should win the rest of their regular season games and March Madness, but I have a feeling they may lose one game due to injury or illness. Otherwise, Kentucky will waltz through the “Big Dance” and add another championship to their legacy.

By David Josselsohn

Maroon-News Staff

Despite their impressive start to the season, Kentucky will not finish the regular season and the postseason undefeated this year. While this team looks dominant on the surface, it struggles to score in its half court offense.  This will hamper Kentucky when it starts to play better competition in the postseason. The Wildcats’ offense is filled with one-dimensional players; Devin Booker is only a perimeter shooter, the Harrison brothers are slashers, and Karl Anthony-Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson are very good at converting on offensive rebounds. Kentucky does not have a superstar who can create offense on his own.

I see teams like Wisconsin, Arizona and Virginia (assuming a speedy recovery for Justin Anderson and his fractured finger) giving Kentucky trouble in the NCAA tournament. These teams play stout defense and will make Kentucky work for every basket in the half-court. Additionally, players like Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky and Arizona’s Caleb Tarczewski are big enough that Kentucky will not be able to compensate for bad shooting with offensive rebounding. On the other side of the ball, all three of these squads play team offense, giving all five players a chance to touch the ball. In addition, these teams all shoot the ball well from the perimeter, meaning that they will not be forced to venture into the paint and deal with Kentucky’s length under the basket.

Finally, I worry about Kentucky’s strength of schedule recently. Their conference, the Southeastern Conference (SEC), does not feature any teams that can come close to the talent of the Wildcats.

I believe that Kentucky has lulled themselves into a false sense of security and that when their conference schedule ends and they finally begin playing other top teams again, they will falter.

By Paul Smyth

Maroon-News Staff

Asking a group of 19 and 20 year olds to win a national championship is one thing, but asking them to do it while going 40-0 is another. The Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball team is more than half-way there. The Wildcats are closing in on 25-0 and are predicted by many to finish both the SEC regular season and SEC tournament undefeated. If they accomplished this, Kentucky would be the first team since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers to win the NCAA tournament with an undefeated record. The Wichita State Shockers entered March Madness just a season before with an undefeated record only to fall to Kentucky themselves in the Round of 32 to finish 35-1.

However, this Kentucky team is much different than last year’s Shockers squad. This Wildcats team boasts nine McDonald’s High School All-Americans. They have shown the ability to play together and to be effective as a team. Guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison both chose to return to school this season, turning down the ability to enter the NBA draft. They have both been able to provide leadership for this young roster. The sky’s the limit for the Kentucky Wildcats.

With just about six games left in the regular season, the Wildcats shouldn’t face a true test until the NCAA tournament. This could be costly for a team that may not be mature enough to handle extreme adversity. Nonetheless, I believe that the Wildcats have enough firepower to finish their campaign for an undefeated season and will be crowned 2015 NCAA Champions.