Can Anyone Stop Kentucky From Winning it All?

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Updated: December 15, 2014
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Through 11 games, the Kentucky Wildcats have been a cut above the rest in the college basketball ranks this season.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari has arguably his most talented roster during his tenure in Lexington, complete with nine — count ’em — NINE McDonald’s All-Americans, including two of the top-five prospects on the DrafExpress 2015 NBA Mock Draft board.

Oh, and the only basketball team in America that’s taller than the Wildcats’ roster top-to-bottom?

The Portland Trail Blazers.

(Note: That means Kentucky is taller than 29 of the 30 NBA teams. That’s uh, not exactly normal.)

How impressive have the lengthy ‘Cats been in their 11-0 start?

Well, start with a 32-point annihilation of No. 5 Kansas on Nov. 18 in Indianapolis. The Jayhawks shot 19.6 percent(!) from the floor, including Kentucky holding Kansas to just a 12-point second half.

 

Twelve.

That’s some solid defense.

Speaking of twelve, 12 days later, the Wildcats hosted Providence and one of the nation’s top volume scorers: LaDonte Henton. In a 20-point victory for Kentucky, Henton shot 1-of-8 from the floor for three points.

(Note: Henton is averaging 18.9 PPG this season for the Friars.)

Add in double-digit wins against both Texas and North Carolina and the Wildcats are rolling towards Indianapolis and their fourth Final Four birth in the last six seasons.

So, the question remains … who can stop Big Blue from ruling the college basketball kingdom once again?

 

No. 4 Louisville (9-0)

How about the team in Kentucky’s backyard?

The unbeaten in-state rivals of the Wildcats are set for a Dec. 27 date at home with the top-ranked team in the nation. Who better to hand the ‘Cats their first defeat on the year and keep Kentucky from walking out of Indianapolis as champions?

Montrezl Harrell has been an absolute monster for the Cards, averaging 17 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. Add in stellar guard play from Terry Rozier and Chris Jones, solid production from Wayne Blackshear and a devastating defensive press, the Kentucky state championship game on the 27th should tear the roof off of the Yum! Center in Louisville.

 

No. 2 Duke (8-0)

Picture this: Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Jahlil Okafor at half-court to start a national semi-final game in April during the NCAA Tournament.

Could the Blue Devils take down Big Blue in Indy?

Simply put, absolutely.

Outside of Kentucky, who is more talented in America than Mike Krzyzewski‘s bunch?

(Note: The only team with as many McDonald’s All-Americans as UK? Duke … with nine.)

Behind Okafor’s stellar post play, excellent shooting from Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones living up to the hype in the backcourt, Duke may be best-equipped to stop the Kentucky coronation in April.

 

No. 3 Arizona (8-0)

In six years under head coach Sean Miller, the former Xavier head man has turned Arizona into a national power again.

The only team — outside of Billy Donovan‘s Florida Gators — that has made three consecutive Elite Eight appearances in the last three seasons: Arizona.

Behind experience, superb defense and a rising superstar, the (other) Wildcats could definitely have a shot at not only making their first Final Four in 13 years, but at taking down the almighty Wildcats from Lexington.

Stanley Johnson is becoming what most expected him to be coming out of legendary Mater Dei High School in California. In 10 games, Johnson is averaging a team-high 14.1 points per game and finding new ways to find the highlight reel on a nightly basis.

 

No. 6 Virginia (9-0)

Virginia?

Do you think Ralph Sampson still plays for the Cavaliers?

No, actually, I don’t.

But, the current-day Cavaliers are pretty good in their own right.

With suffocating defensive pressure and one of the more experienced and physical teams in the country, why couldn’t Tony Bennett‘s win a slugfest with the nation’s top team?

The Cavs won’t wow you on the offensive end (68.7 PPG, 167th in the nation), but with a guy like Justin Anderson, who can light it up on any given night, Virginia isn’t a team to be taken lightly by anyone, especially Kentucky.

 

Now obviously, it’s December. Anything can happen from now until the start of the NCAA Tournament in March.

(Note: Alex Poythress‘ torn ACL really threw a wrench into Kentucky’s “platoon” attack. Poythress’s numbers won’t stop you in your tracks, but he’s a quintessential glue guy in the UK locker room and a spark on a nightly basis.)

But, if you’re looking for a few teams that could keep the top team in the polls from cutting down the nets at Lucas Oil Stadium in April, this bunch of teams are equipped to get the job done.

 

Michael Whitlow

@MAWhitlow

Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America

Mike Whitlow

Michael Whitlow is Sideline Sports Report’s college basketball editor. The 22-year-old from Fort Wayne, Indiana is currently a journalism major at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana, Michael calls Chicago, Illinois his home because of the sights, the sounds and passion Chicago sports fans show each and every day.

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