By Taylor Sturm @TSturmRS on August 11, 2014
The Kentucky Wildcats fell short of winning the 2014 NCAA tournament, but caught nearly everyone off guard when several predicted first-round 2014 NBA Draft picks decided to return for the 2014-15 college basketball season. With another top recruiting class under head coach John Calipari, the Wildcats are expected to be capable of an undefeated run to the NCAA tournament. Here are the 10 teams with the best chance of beating BBN next season.
The Tigers lose key members of their squad from the previous season, but Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin averaged more than 20 combined points and 10 rebounds as freshmen against the Wildcats. With key transfers, LSU is set up to be a dark horse to win the SEC, and, although it isn’t a better team than Kentucky, it could steal a win.
The Friars lost their leading scorer Bryce Cotton, but return the spine of their Big East tournament-winning side from the previous season. This team is headed for the 2015 NCAA tournament and, with Kentucky likely coming off of two easy wins with a matchup against the Texas Longhorns a game away, could catch the Wildcats off guard.
What? I know that’s the first thing you thought when seeing the Bulldogs’ name on this list. However, Georgia is returning a majority of its key players and finished third in the SEC last season. That’s third, in a conference that saw three teams make the Sweet 16 and, in all honesty, should’ve seen three in the Elite Eight.
The Bruins lost a majority of their star power from the previous season, but UCLA always recruits well and its roster is always deep. The Bruins tend to be a team that gets better as the season goes along, so how quickly this team gels could be key to whether they are able to compete with the Wildcats.
Rivalry games are some of the most unpredictable matchups in sports. For some reason, the favored team tends to lose the early-season matchup between the Wildcats and Cardinals.
Until last season when Florida won the SEC Championship, 2010 was the last time the winner of the SEC regular season title also won the SEC tournament. Even in both of these instances, the team only won by a single point. Arkansas, led by Bobby Portis, Rashad Madden, Michael Qualls and Coty Clarke are one of the most underrated teams in the country; Kentucky should beware of this young, talented team.
The Tar Heels’ season depends on Marcus Paige. Averaging over 17 points per game last season, he’s expected to be one of the leading scorers in college basketball next season. North Carolina will be able to win any game in which Paige puts up big numbers, even against Kentucky.
Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid are gone, but any team led by Bill Self is dangerous. Kansas doesn’t have more talent than Kentucky; however, the Jayhawks could beat up on some of the younger members of Kentucky’s lineup.
Florida lost several key players, but Billy Donovan is a top five coach in college basketball. Donovan will get the Gators into top form in time to face Kentucky, and Florida could quickly turn into one of the best teams in the country.
Probably the surprise pick on this list, the Longhorns return everyone as well as recruited Myles Turner, one of the top players in the 2014 recruiting class. Their team is experienced and matches up well with the Wildcats, especially on the glass. Texas is the most dangerous team in the country to all of the expected favorites, and that includes Kentucky.
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