JOE BIDDLE: Kentucky perfect when journey in the tourney ends

Kentucky Wildcats SEC

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Kentucky left the Music City on a highest of high notes.

They swept their way through the SEC Tournament while barely breaking a sweat.

The top-ranked and undefeated ‘Cats won their games at Bridgestone Arena by an average margin of 18 points a game.

They are now six games away from cutting down the nets in neighboring state Indiana. They open play in Louisville and will advance in the Midwest Region before going to Indianapolis where they will have to win two games to put the topping on what will be an undefeated season.

It won’t be easy, certainly not as easy as they made the SEC Tournament seem.

Let me remind you, the SEC is ranked the fifth best conference in college basketball.

And Kentucky has a target on its back. Every team knows they can make their mark by upsetting the Wildcats.

I believe the team that has the best chance of ousting Kentucky is Wisconsin, the No. 1 seed in the West. Like Kentucky they have enough brawn on their front line, but unlike the ‘Cats, the Badgers’ big men can, and will, go beyond the 3-point line and hit a high percentage of its 3s.
The inside game is led by 7-0, 242-pound senior Frank “The Tank’’ Kaminsky, who averaged 18.4 points 8.1 rebounds and shot 41 percent from beyond the 3-point line.

They also have 6-10, 218-pound Duje Dukan a fifth year senior and 6-9, 230-pound Sam Dekker.

Arkansas guard Michael Qualls (24) shoots as Kentucky forward Trey Lyles (41) and Kentucky forward Willie Cauley-Stein (15) look on during the second half of the NCAA college basketball Southeastern Conference tournament championship game, Sunday, March 15, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. Kentucky won 78-63. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)
Arkansas guard Michael Qualls (24) shoots as Kentucky forward Trey Lyles (41) and Kentucky forward Willie Cauley-Stein (15) look on during the second half of the NCAA college basketball Southeastern Conference tournament championship game, Sunday, March 15, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. Kentucky won 78-63. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Like Kentucky, Wisconsin players share the ball and work hard to get open shots.

Wisconsin’s Bo Rein is considered one of the top coaches in the game, but Kentucky Coach John Calipari has shown he can take the best high school players in the country and play at the top level.

His reputation for getting his players drafted in the NBA is well documented and don’t think that word doesn’t get around the country with all the summer league teams.

His current team has twin 6-6 guards, Aaron and Andrew Harrison. They can defend, shoot and more importantly create space for open shots.

SEC Tournament MVP Willie Cauley-Stein has grown into a man by not leaving early for the NBA. His ability in the paint, both on the offensive and defensive end is impressive. He rebounds, block shots and has great footwork.

With all that talent, you would think there would be some problems because of McDonald’s All-Americans spending so much time on the bench.

But when you are 34-0 and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, that goes a long way.

There is no way you can find a “me-first’’ player on the roster. They know they are closing in on finishing the job, but are they looking ahead, no way.

“Regardless if we were perfect or not, it’s still we’re only guaranteed one game,’’ said Cauley-Stein. “So it’s really the slate is clean, whether we’re 34-0 or got five losses. … From here on out, you’re 0-0.’’

Calipari likes their attitude.

“This team has a lot of dog in it,’’ Calipari said after polishing off Arkansas by 15 points. “So I don’t think these guys are worried about numbers. That’s ego stuff. I don’t think they worry about it.’’

A lot of goofy stuff can happen in the NCAA Tournament. The pressure is stifling to some players. Kentucky seems oblivious to those things. After all they have 10 players who played more than 11.4 minutes a game. That makes them compete against each other ever practice, every game.

They are as mature a team as you will see when you consider most of them are 18 and 19 years old.

They passed on cutting down the nets after beating Arkansas in the SEC Tournament championship game.

“Those aren’t the nets we’re really looking to cut down,’’ said Cauley-Stein.

“We’re looking for something bigger.’’

I don’t think this is a team that is going to rattle because of the pressure. I do think they will obtain their final goal and be cutting down the nets in Indianapolis.

Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at joebiddle11@gmail.com.

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