Tuesday, January 19, 2010

And then there was one...

With Texas' loss to Kansas St. last night, there is now just one unbeaten left in college basketball: the upstart 18-0 Kentucky Wildcats. Behind new coach John Calipari and freshman phenom John Wall, who followed Calipari to Kentucky from Memphis, Kentucky will move into the #1 spot when the next rankings come out.

That's not to say they are the best team in the nation. The Wildcats have beaten just two ranked teams, North Carolina and Connecticut, who were #11 and #12 at the time. Both teams have lost four times since playing Kentucky and are in danger of falling out of the top 25. Kentucky has just three games remaining against ranked teams in February, two of those coming against #8 Tennessee, who have played great since leading scorer Tyler Smith was kicked off the team.

The Wildcats boast three players who average 15 points per game and Wall is third in the nation in assists (6.9). Three of their top four scorers are freshman, with DeMarcus Cousins averaging 15.3 points and Eric Bledsoe averaging 11.4 per game. Despite the comfort level these three have shown, Kentucky's inexperience could come back to bite them come tournament time.

Wall is a stud and should be the top pick in the NBA Draft next April. But as a player who always has the ball in his hands on offense, he turns it over more than four times a game. Combine that with Bledsoe's 3.5 turnovers per game and Kentucky's starting backcourt averages 7.6 turnovers every night! You have to take care of the rock when the calendar turns to March and if Wall and Bledsoe continue to turn it over at this rate, Kentucky may struggle to make it to the Final Four.

Texas, Kansas, Villanova and Syracuse round out the projected top 5 and all have one loss on their resume. All three lost to ranked teams except Villanova, who fell by 10 to unranked Temple. It's difficult to tell at this point which team is the nation's best, but Kentucky (with Wall, Patrick Patterson and Cousins) and Kansas (with Sherron Collins, Xavier Henry and Cole Adrich) have the most star power. Texas and Syracuse possess the most depth and stars of their own (Damian James and Wes Johnson), not to mention Villanova's Scottie Reynolds who scores more than any other player on a top-five team (19.3 PPG)

Kentucky may end up with the best record based on their remaining schedule and the Wildcats remind me of the the 2003 Syracuse national championship team that featured one-and-done freshman Carmelo Anthony, a team went into the tournament under the radar as a #3 seed. All eyes will be on Wall come March and if he and the Wildcats falter, there are numerous other title-worthy teams ready to take their shot at winning a National Championship, including hte Orange. It's only January, but I'm already getting excited for March.

No comments:

Post a Comment