5 Reasons Why Kentucky Is Not Going Undefeated in 2013-14
Kentucky Will Not Go Undefeated in 2013-14: 5 Reasons Why
I know Kentucky head coach John Calipari does not like when the media talks about his team being so good and deserving of the No. 1 ranking before stepping onto the court. They are going to be a bunch of very young kids trying to figure out the college life and adapting to a new level of basketball. Calipari wants them to practice and work like they have been given nothing. This year’s edition of Wildcats is already regarded as the best recruiting class on paper ever seen. Some will already have them as the No. 1 team in the nation. And Calipari hates every second of it. He wants a chip on their shoulders; he wants them to earn their way to the top. Calipari’s biggest problem with this issue may have stemmed from something he said in the past.
When asked about the prospects of coaching an undefeated team, Calipari has always wanted to do it at Kentucky. Why? Because so many people say it cannot be done. He wants to go 40-0 and win the national championship before he hangs up the suit and tie. His best shot at the feat was in 2012, but Indiana and Vanderbilt spoiled those plans. Only time will tell whether the 2014 squad will be the better chance at the undefeated season, but they have some huge shoes to fill. They will have more freshman, less experience and continue to deal with the ridiculously high expectations.
As part of Calipari’s recruiting pitch, he has already challenged guys like Julius Randle to accomplish something that has not been done in 43 years. Bob Knight, Isaiah Thomas and Indiana accomplished the feat in 1976, going 32-0. Kentucky will need to win eight more games and compete in a much more competitive generation. Kentucky’s schedule also appears to look even more formidable than the 2012 edition that went 38-2.
Here are five hurdles I see on the way to an undefeated season in Lexington:
Champions Classic vs. Michigan State
Kentucky is still participating in the “Champions Classic,” which features the ‘Cats, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State playing each other in a round-robin format, and has for four years. Kentucky defeated Kansas in Madison Square Garden in 2012, but fell to a more-experienced Duke squad last season. This year’s ‘Cats will face the same kind of challenge with Michigan State. The Spartans return nine of their top-10 players from last season, including 80 percent of their offensive production. The challenges of this game will be unprecedented for a young Kentucky squad so early in the season. The Wildcats will use this game to see where they are compared to another team expected to compete for the national title. The Wildcats and Spartans are ranked No. 1-and-2 in most preseason polls. The game will be played in Chicago’s United Center on Nov. 12.
Tar Heels Return To The Schedule
North Carolina is back on the schedule for 2014, and will be the first true road test for Kentucky. The Tar Heels and Wildcats have not faced each other since Anthony Davis’ last second block of UNC’s John Henson, which allowed the 2012 ‘Cats to squeak out the victory in Rupp Arena. If you had to pick the first road game, I’m sure you can think of much easier options than bringing in a team relying mostly on freshmen into Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels rarely fall at home, especially against non-conference opponents. Since 2005-06, North Carolina has won 63-straight games in the Dean Smith Center against foes from outside the ACC. Not only will Kentucky have to break that impressive streak, they will have to overcome a raucous crowd bearing down on them the entire game.
The Reigning Champs Come To Rupp
As much as I would like to believe Kentucky will have enough fire to handle business against arch rival Louisville, I have to put the Cardinals on here. Louisville will come into Rupp Arena on Dec. 28 as the reigning national champions. They return seven of their top nine players, including player of the year candidate Russ Smith. The last time Louisville came to Rupp was 2011, and that team went on to the Final Four. This team will be much more dynamic and have the experience of winning a title. Kentucky lost their final significant piece to their 2012 championship team when Kyle Wiltjer left for Gonzaga.
Florida Will Challenge For The SEC Title
With Florida’s depth and experience, I cannot say I can see a bunch of freshman going down to Gainesville and leaving with a win. Florida’s offseason woes have carried over into their summer practices. Highly regarded point guard recruit Chris Walker may not join the team till the second semester. Their starting point guard Scottie Wilbekin is still suspended and has not participated in any workouts in preparation for this coming season. Will Yeguete, the leading rebounder from last season, is coming off ankle surgery. If Florida can stay healthy and have all of their players available, they will contend for the SEC Championship and a Final Four appearance. Kentucky will have a major challenge to beat the Gators at home and in Gainesville. The evolution of Patric Young will decide whether Florida can contend for the national title. He will be the offensive focal point and have a much brighter spotlight than previous years.
Tougher NCAA Tournament
Many storylines can alter this last point, but I believe the NCAA Tournament field will be tougher for this team than in 2012. Kentucky’s championship run avoided some of the better teams in the field. North Carolina’s championship dreams were in trouble with the break of Kendall Marshall’s wrist. Ohio State was the better team versus Kansas in the Final Four. Louisville and Michigan State will be loaded, and you can’t count out Florida at full strength. Kansas has Andrew Wiggins, Duke adds Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood and Arizona’s frontcourt will be one of the best in the nation with Aaron Gordon. The road to a title can be much harder, which makes 40-0 look really bleak.
Brian Lewis is an SEC Basketball Writer for RantSports.com. You can add him to your network on Google for more of his work.