Kentucky players, from left, Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Aaron Harrison, Tyler Ulis and Andrew Harrison re-enter the game during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Florida, Saturday, March 7, 2015, in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 67-50. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
The Kentucky Wildcats recently completed a 31-0 regular season, as a roster stocked with blue-chip players and the presence of head coach John Calipari at the helm resulted in Kentucky’s best regular season since 1954.
But for Calipari and the Wildcats, the mission is far from complete, as the SEC and NCAA tournaments await in the upcoming weeks. They’ll enter both fields highly favored, but the question remains: will the Kentucky Wildcats finish the season undefeated and claim another NCAA championship? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Riley: Team play is always the deciding factor in postseason runs, but the Kentucky Wildcats possess that, and then some. They’re stocked with NBA-caliber size and talent, and are backed by one of the best coaches in the nation. With the momentum from an undefeated season, the players understand how important it is to finish this job. In addition, several Kentucky players have a good chance to elevate their NBA draft stock with a solid college postseason. With so much at stake and with the experience from last year’s title game appearance, it’s Kentucky’s year and they’ll finish the job.
Green: Undefeated seasons add even more weight once the postseason rolls around. Plus, every team in the country is scouting Kentucky, the top-ranked school, more thoroughly than any other opponent. The Wildcats are talented, but that edge can vanish if an opponent has the right game plan in the postseason. I think the pressure will get to the Wildcats, and they will crumble before the championship game. The SEC Tournament will feature several teams familiar with Kentucky, some of whom will play the Wildcats for the third time this season. Familiarity is always an edge that can be used by either school.
Riley: They’ve faced pressure all season and have succeeded 31 times in a row. If there’s anybody to trust with pressure on their shoulders, it’s the Kentucky Wildcats. The experience they possess from last season’s run to the title game is something that no other school has. The SEC Tournament will have some familiar faces, but the SEC for the most part is on a down year. The only team nationally ranked other than the Wildcats are the Arkansas Razorbacks, and Kentucky beat them by 17 points a week ago.
Green: The Wildcats’ last two SEC games were pretty much blueprints on how to hang with them. They found themselves in a tug-of-war with Georgia on the road for much of the night before pulling out a late win. They sparred with Florida for much of the first half and into the second before a late run gave Kentucky a big lead. Both opponents played aggressive defense, did a good job protecting the ball, and did not stake the Wildcats to big leads until fatigue finally set in. With a week for schools to prepare and review past games, Kentucky may lose before the NCAA tournament even begins. I just can’t see them finishing undefeated. All eyes are on the Wildcats to complete an improbable run. The odds are actually against them, and I believe the odds will win out.