Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett

Saturday, March 21, 2015

March Madness Questions

What's the biggest storyline?
Kentucky's quest for a perfect season. The most surprising part of this is the fact that people don't seem to be making a big deal out of this. Sure, they played a relatively easy schedule, (four other SEC teams made it, Arkansas is the only other one above a nine seed) but there's a reason no teams have gone undefeated since 1976. You have to be ready to play every game, if you're flat once it's over. I was the number one Wichita State defender last year, and regardless of what happens in the tournament, Kentucky's a great team. That said, I'm rooting for the Wildcats to lose. I don't want Coach Cal's strategy to work, it's much more fun to watch and root for someone like Wisconsin. Everyone there's staying all four years and with that comes a bond with the players and students. In Wisconsin, the players go to the same classes, go to the same parties, maybe even live in the same dorms. They're one of them. In Kentucky there's a joylessness about the whole process. For most of the players, they're just there until they can go to the NBA, after the tournament they'll probably stop going to classes and if they don't win it all they'll just be forgotten by all the spoiled fans, who will patiently wait until the next crop of McDonald's All Americans come in. Sounds like a blast.
What's a possible upset?
Kansas has a history of gagging in March. Wichita State has a history of knocking big names out. You know what to do. Beyond history, I'm not sold of this Kansas team. They can get too passive at times, Ellis's knee concerns me, and there's  no telling what will happen with Cliff Alexander. Teams like that don't tend to last long in the tournament.
Who's a sleeper Final Four team?
I'm going to say Utah for two reasons. On Thursday they survived a Stephen F Austin team showing a lot of upset potential with their best player, Delon Wright going 2-7 from the field. Wright's too good to play like that the entire tournament and Jacob Poetel played very well, posting an 18-9 with five blocks. Another reason is their region. Iowa State's out, I don't completely trust Gonzaga and Duke is one of the most overrated teams in the country, completely undeserving of a number one seed. They lost to Notre Dame not once but twice during the regular season. There's also a serious depth issue with Duke. They only have eight players. What happens if Okafor gets into foul trouble? Marshall Plumlee is the only other center on the team. There's just too much that can go wrong.
Who can take down Kentucky?
Plenty of teams can, but there are two that have a much  better chance than anyone else: Virginia and Arizona. We'll start with Arizona. The Wildcats are the only team in the country who can match up with Kentucky. Stanley Johnson matches up well with either of the Harrison twin, and Rondae Hollis Jefferson can slow down Karl-Anthony Towns. T.J. McConnell is one of the better point guards in the country, if everything goes right, they can pull it out.
Arizona has the personnel to beat Kentucky, but Virginia has the system. You beat Kentucky by slowing it down and grinding it out, which is exactly how you beat Kentucky. With all the attention Kentucky's gotten, Virginia might have the best D in the country.  It's a defensive struggle, the Hoo's pack line defense limits Kentucky's fast break opportunities before Justin Anderson makes some big shots and ends the Wildcats' quest at perfection. That's not inconceivable, right? Please?

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