No. 1 Kentucky (34-0, 18-0) received the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, and while the Midwest Region could have been easier, it certainly could have been much, much tougher.
Will anything get in the way of Kentucky advancing to the Final Four in Indianapolis?
“No, I don’t think they’re going to have any trouble,” CBS Sports Network college basketball analyst Steve Lappas said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “Besides the fact that they’re the best team in the country by a considerable margin, I believe, I think they got really helped by the committee in terms of their region. When you look at their 1 through 4 seeds, Kansas is a 2. They’ve struggled. Notre Dame is a 3. They’ve been really good, but they’re more of an offensive team. They can’t really deal with the size of Kentucky. And then Maryland is the 4-seed. I don’t really see a whole lot of problems for Kentucky getting to the Final Four.
“The reason why they’re going to win this whole thing is because they can play bad and still win,” Lappas continued. “Most teams have to play good to win. Well, this is a team that is so good on defense, they could literally shoot 35 percent and win a game by eight or 10 points.”
It also helps that the Wildcats won’t have to face Wisconsin or Duke until the Final Four – if they face them at all.
“They were probably rooting for Wisconsin to win that Big Ten Championship,” Lappas said. “Just as Wisconsin didn’t want to match up with them in a regional final, they didn’t want to match up with Wisconsin either in a regional final. I think if there’s two teams in the country that can beat Kentucky, it’s Wisconsin and Duke. I don’t think they will, but they’re two teams that are capable, and they will not see them until the Final Four.”
Should Kentucky win the tournament – as it is favored to do – it’ll be interesting to see how history judges its all-time greatness. After all, 40-0 is 40-0.
Well, sort of.
“Here’s the thing about this team,” Lappas said. “When we say they’re a great team and they may go undefeated, they’re not nearly as good as that Indiana team that went undefeated back in ’76. They’re great for the way college basketball is today. In the all-time annals of college basketball, is this a great team? No. You had four-year guys back then. That Indiana team had four first-round draft picks that were seniors, so it was a different time. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a team this big, this long and this athletic, but as a team itself, yeah, they’re really good – but I don’t know if they stack up with (the 1990) UNLV team that you talked about. But they are impressive for where we are today. And the fact they have four guys 6-9 or better that are all going to be pros – I think that’s what this team really has going for it.”