NCAA Tournament Picks: Is Calipari's Undefeated Kentucky Really Unbeatable?

Ross Benjamin

Tuesday, March 24, 2015 6:20 PM GMT

In this NCAA Tournament article, we’re going to examine the biggest threats to the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats. Can anyone possibly knock off this dominating team? We have that answer, and much more in the way of pertinent details regarding one of the hottest topics.

Kentucky’s toughest Foe is Kentucky
I know many of you are interested as to my take on teams that have a legitimate chance of knocking off Kentucky. I certainly will address that topic. However, I think the biggest threat to Kentucky in terms of being crowned as the 2015 NCAA Tournament champion, is Kentucky. If the Wildcats play at the level they’ve exhibited for the vast majority of the season, you would be hard pressed to make a case for any of the other remaining fifteen teams chances. You don’t go undefeated in a power conference (SEC) schedule, and go 36-0 overall by accident.

 

Absolutely not a Fluke
The most dominating party of Kentucky’s game comes on the defensive end of the floor. They’re allowing opponents a paltry 53.9 points per game, and have held them to a horrible 35.1% shooting from the floor. A close second in terms of their strongest assets comes in the rebounding department. Kentucky is at a +8 rebound per game differential this season, and possesses one of, if not the most, imposing front lines in all of college basketball.

 

Impressive Resume
Besides running the table in the SEC, the Wildcats have impressive non-conference wins over the likes of Buffalo by 19, Kansas by 32, Providence by 20, Texas by 12, North Carolina by 14, UCLA by 39, and at Louisville by 8. By the way, all seven of those opponents were part of this 2015 NCAA Tournament, and three of those teams are in “The Sweet 16” (UCLA, North Carolina, and Louisville).

 

How Kentucky can possibly fall
They say the great equalizer for a college basketball underdog is the ability to convert on a high percentage and large volume of three point shots. The Wildcats have held opponents to a meager 27% shooting from beyond the three-point line this season. However, there are five teams left in the tournament that present a major challenge in that area. I’ve listed below each of those five teams and their three-point shooting percentage in parenthesis.

Gonzaga (41.1%)
Utah (40.8%)
Notre Dame (38.9%)
Duke (38.9%)
Michigan State (38.8%)

 

Teams that can neutralize Kentucky on the glass possess the capability of giving themselves a realistic chance of at the very least being competitive, and even possibly pulling off a stunning upset. I’ve listed below the five teams that pose the biggest threat to Kentucky in that regard, and what their rebound per game differential is in parenthesis.

Arizona (+10.5)
North Carolina (+8.2)
Gonzaga (+7.3)
Michigan State (+7.0)
Duke (+6.1)


The final piece of the puzzle to solve for teams hoping to knock off what has been, and currently is, unequivocally the best college basketball team in the land this season, comes with the ability to turn in a monumental defensive performance. In order for any team to have any chance of beating the Wildcats, at the very least, must hold them to less than 40% shooting from the floor, which is something you need to keep in mind when placing your NCAA tournament picks. Below are five teams that in my opinion have shown the capacity to accomplish that feat. I’ve also included their defensive field goal percentage in parenthesis.

Utah (38.3%
Louisville (39.0)
Gonzaga (39.1%)
Arizona (39.4%)
Michigan State (39.5%)

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Final Analysis
After crunching the numbers in all of the data pertaining to my three key statistical categories, and implementing the eye test based solely on my personal observations, the top choices in regards to who possesses the best chance of upsetting Kentucky are listed below.

Gonzaga (34-2)- The Bulldogs were the only team in the top five in all three of my key statistical categories. They have size up front which includes quality depth in that area, are #3 nationally in three-point shooting percentage, and are an underrated defensive team. Their only two losses this season came in overtime at Arizona, and in their regular season finale versus BYU. They’ve also had quality non-conference wins over SMU by 16, Georgia by 12, St. John’s by 7, and at UCLA by 13. All four of those opponents were in the 2015 NCAA Tournament field.

Arizona (33-3)- They’re not a great three-point shooting team, but Arizona is terrific defensively, and is statistically the best rebounding team in the country. Arizona also passes my eye test with flying colors, and specifically they’re the one team that can match Kentucky’s all around athleticism.

Duke (31-4)- You can never count out a “Coach K” team at this time of year, and this one in particular looms as a dangerous opponent for Kentucky if that matchup comes to fruition.