Which best describes the 2013-2014 Final 4 qualifier Kentucky Wildcats?
Can an 8 seed be a great team? I’m not talking “all-time” great, just a great team. There are good teams (like your normal 8 seed) every season, but then there is a cut above them- that season’s “great” teams.
The 2014 NCAA men’s basketball Midwest regional champions featured a tall point guard making smart decisions and daring drives to the hole. A matching shooting guard was draining threes and nailing big shots. Their swingman was making plays when the team needed them most and fetching rebounds.
This team also sported a 6’9” power forward that was near impossible to keep off the boards or out of the paint. Their last starter was a 7 foot throwback center who showed a nice back to the basket post up game and was often in position defensively.
Finally they brought an athletic 7 footer off the bench, as well as a 6’8” energy forward and a defensive lockdown point guard. Let’s not forget they also had a third 7-footer, a do-it-all type, on the bench injured.
The team described above knocked off the #1 team in the country, then the #4 and #2 teams in their region, utilizing all forms of good basketball. At times they were good shooters, good rebounders, good everything.
The only real knock on this team is that they start slow, falling behind by 9 or more points in the first half of each of the last three wins. Then they comeback. What do you want? They are a bunch of freshman after all.
So is Kentucky a great team?
As I sat to write this, defining a “great team” became a difficult thing to do. I have seen great defensive teams ride that defense to the moniker (1984 Georgetown). Or highly efficient teams (2013 UL) or just fully loaded with talent teams (2012 UK). So it is hard to look for any one trait when labeling a team great or not.
We know one thing for sure, as recently as March 1, they were not only not great, they weren’t any good at all. On March 1, the Cats fell by 19 to Florida, the same team they will be watching as the pre-show to their semi-final game Saturday.
Then came the “tweak.” I don’t need to re-hash the story, and there are many different theories of just what that tweak was, but I will say this: since that day the team has undeniably played “great.”
They are making an effort to get the ball inside into true low post post-up situations. After all, Johnson and Randle have advantages on most college players down there whether it is Johnson’s pure size or the strength/ athleticism combo in Randle.
If their opponent concentrates on guarding the paint, the Harrisons and James Young have started hitting jumpers and making good decisions with the ball. Honestly, just what was the “Tweak” that has these guys playing much sounder ball (I have my guesses like everyone else). They are knocking down outside jumpers. They attack the basket with purpose and options in mind.
And if somehow both those options are taken away, Randle is a load to keep away from the basket one on one. As an added bonus, the bench has kicked in as well with the precise needed contribution at key times.
So their roster balance and make up is great. The way they are currently performing is great and the competition they have been out-pacing lately is also great. So, open and shut case: the Kentucky Wildcats are a great team, right?
Hold on there a second, can a great team have 10 losses no matter their make up, or their end result? Can a great team have at least that many average performances that still yielded wins as well? If the team wins Monday, is that the main factor to put them into the “great” category?
After this season is all said and done, the phrase:”they start slow and then comeback” may come to define this bunch. After all, prior to post-season play, the team progressed slowly, but oh boy, are they finishing.
This team is The Comebacks, but have they come all the way back to earn the "great" label that was predicted for them in the pre-season?
You can let us know by answering our poll and commenting below. Also, don't miss our special Destination Dallas Friday night at 7PM, April 4 on WHAS11.