It’s time for the Final Four, and the odds-on favorite to take home the NCAA championship is the Kentucky Wildcats. With that in mind, here is some background information to know about Big Blue before tip-off Saturday.
1. They are undefeated.
Kentucky has yet to lose, winning its first 38 games and routinely blowing out teams. Early in the season, they beat a very good Kansas team by 32 points. Since then, the Wildcats’ blowouts have included lopsided wins over Montana State (86-28), Texas-Arlington (92-44), Auburn (110-75), and most recently West Virginia (78-39) in the NCAA Round of 16. Kentucky’s quest for perfection has been a source of national fascination all season long, as the Wildcats are seeking to become the first college basketball team to not lose since Indiana did it in the 1975-76 season.
2. They are big. Really, really big.
The Wildcats are the tallest team in college basketball, but the extent of their height does not stop there. According to a New York Times study, Kentucky is taller than 29 NBA teams – only the Minnesota Timberwolves eclipse the Wildcats in average height. They boast seven-footers Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson, and not even 5’9” guard Tyler Ulis can bring down Kentucky’s average height of over 6 feet, 7.5 inches.
3. They’ve been here before.
Former coach Rick Pitino once referred to Kentucky as the Roman Empire of college basketball, and the record supports that statement. No team in history has more wins or a higher winning percentage. In the past few years, UK has truly staked its claim as college basketball’s giant. Coach John Calipari led the Wildcats to the national title in 2012, the title game in 2014, and the Final Four this year and in 2011.
4. Their coach is among the best in the game.
Calipari has a reputation for turning around programs, and Kentucky is no exception. His legend began in 1988, when he took over a downtrodden Massachusetts program and led the Minutemen to their first Final Four seven years later. He later did the same at Memphis, and, after arriving at UK in 2009, led the Wildcats all the way to the 2012 national championship. One accomplishment that has eluded the future Hall of Famer, however, is an undefeated season – Calipari has lost two games in a season three times, but he has never gone through a season without a loss.
5. They are family.
According to Willie Cauley-Stein, the team has “a family feeling.” “Our chemistry is [at the point] where you know where everybody’s going to be at every play,” he said after UK’s win over Notre Dame last Saturday. “The way the team has bonded is the reason why we win games like we do.” Calipari has a reputation for coaching effectively talented groups of players – and there might not be any team more talented than Kentucky, which sports nine McDonald’s All-Americans. For all that talent, though, the Wildcats have an equal amount of heart. “Everybody likes each other. There aren’t any cliques or groups of guys that don’t like each other,” says guard Dominique Hawkins. It will be interesting to see if Kentucky will be able to implement that chemistry in their Final Four game Saturday.
Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Five Things You Need to Know About Kentucky
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