The #1 ranked NCAA Men’s Basketball team trailed lowly SUNY Buffalo 38-33 at the half on Sunday, but since then Kentucky has looked like an unstoppable force. They went on to win 71-52 against SUNY Buffalo, and then steamrolled #5 ranked Kansas at the State Farm Champions Classic 72-40. The platoon system seems to be highly effective, which leaves many NCAA Men’s Basketball pundits asking, when will Kentucky lose?
The answer is December 27th when the Wildcats head to Louisville to take on the Cardinals. Kansas was a big test, which Calipari’s kids passed with flying colors, but when you take a look at the rest of their schedule it’s pretty light. Louisville is the only decent team Kentucky will play for the rest of the season away from Rupp Arena. They get #10 Texas at home on December 5th, and #6 UNC at home on December 13, but as I explained in my 2014-15 NCAA Men’s Basketball Preview, both of these teams are overrated, and the home-court advantage in college basketball is huge. The game at Louisville will be one of the best games of the 2014-15 NCAA Men’s Basketball season, and I expect the home team to take the W in this rivalry.
Kentucky has the deepest squad in the nation, but all of the pieces don’t necessary fit well together all the time. Their two 5-man platoon system keeps the players fresh, but isn’t very traditional and may cause some lapses when Kentucky B replaces Kentucky A. And how long into the season do you think it’ll take until someone on the 2nd platoon thinks they should be on the 1st, and it throws off the team’s chemistry? I expect a rift at some point, which makes this team vulnerable to a squad like Louisville.
I like what I’ve seen out of the Cardinals so far. Montrezl Harrel has expanded his game to beyond the arc (seriously… I was shocked to see him start launching 3’s, but they’re going in as he’s 3 for 7 after 2 games), and the rest of the team is very well balanced. I’d take Terry Rozier over either of UK’s Harrison twins, and Wayne Blackshear is an experienced X-factor who can give Louisville a big lift if he’s tuned in on any particular night.
The SEC has turned into a pretty shitty basketball conference with the exception of the Wildcats. Florida is ranked, but they’ve already suffered their first loss of the season to unranked Miami (Larranaga shouldn’t have been disrespected like that, the U will be good this year) and don’t have the size nor talent to compete with UK. The only other team in the conference who has a good shot of upsetting the Wildcats is Arkansas, but UK doesn’t play them until February 28th and even that game is at Rupp Arena.
There’s a good chance that Kentucky makes it all the way to the NCAA Tournament with only 1 or 2 blemishes on their record. I think that their cake schedule will catch up with them when they face some stiff competition at a neutral site, and I don’t think this mega-team of All-Americans and future NBA players will win it all this year. But they sure will be fun to watch regardless.