NCAA Project 64 – Final Four: Kentucky

h2. (1) Kentucky

Aaron Smith (@KernelASmith)

Managing Editor, Kentucky Kernel

*1) How has your perception of this Kentucky team changed since before the tournament began?*

It hasn’t changed that much. If anything, UK only reaffirmed why it earned the No. 1 seed, as it dispatched all four opponents by 10 or more points. Coming off an uninspiring SEC Tournament showing, the ‘Cats look like they’ve returned to the dominant play they displayed so often throughout the season.

*2) What was the single greatest reason Kentucky made the Final Four?*

Everyone clicked. From top to bottom, the ‘Cats looked as good as they ever have. Anthony Davis showed why he is national Player of the Year, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist snapped out of a scoring slump to be the South Region’s Most Outstanding Player, Terrence Jones continued to be a double-double threat and the rest of the supporting cast (Darius Miller, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb) each turned in solid performances. With that well-rounded consistency, UK wasn’t going to lose.

*3) What surprised you most about its run to the Final Four?*

I was less surprised about the actual run to the Final Four and more surprised with the team’s reaction once they made it. After the Elite Eight game, the celebration was relatively subdued. Yes, the players celebrated on the court, but in the locker room afterwards, players had a business-like vibe. They knew their work didn’t stop with merely reaching the Final Four. They have two more wins to get they want to get.

*4) What do you predict will happen in the Final Four?*

I think UK wins the national championship. It’s been playing like the best team in the country since January and it’s continued to look the part of a title team through this tournament. If that doesn’t happen, though, it will be a huge disappointment for UK. And if Louisville is the team to halt the dream season, it will be a devastating loss for both the fans and for John Calipari.

*5) What about Louisville poses a threat to UK?*

Louisville’s defense will be Kentucky’s biggest challenge. The Cardinals throw a variety of zone and man looks at teams, and the Wildcats will be have to prepare for all of them. If Louisville can limit Kentucky on the scoreboard and hang around until the end of the game, the pressure of the situation will only magnify for UK. Perhaps more importantly, it could force a poor shooting night, which at this point looks like the only thing that could derail the ‘Cats — like UK’s 6-of-28 three-point night against Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament loss.

*6) Which team represents a better matchup for Kentucky should it reach the title game?*

Kansas. Kentucky has already beaten them once — 75-65 in the second game of the season at a neutral site — and the Jayhawks have fewer weapons than Ohio State. While Thomas Robinson would be a huge threat, the ‘Cats have been effective at taking a star out of the game. Facing a well-rounded Buckeyes team, however, would present a more difficult task.