Until the Whistle Blows: The Weight of Perfection


By ALEX MULHALL – STAFF WRITER

Perfection” is a word that gets thrown around a lot when talking about sports – too much, probably.

No matter how unwilling you are to admit it, Michael Jordan was not a perfect player, Derek Jeter was not a perfect shortstop, and Michael Phelps is not a perfect swimmer. No one is perfect.

While it’s technically not perfect, the season the University of Kentucky (UK) Wildcats are putting together this year is the closest thing we’ve seen to perfection since the 1975-1976 University of Indiana Hoosiers.

That Hoosier team was the last team to complete an undefeated season and win the NCAA National Championship.

UK currently sits at 24-0, the lone remaining undefeated team in Division I.

They have smothered teams with their sheer size and athleticism. The team they most resemble is the Monstars from Space Jam. Attempting a shot on them in the paint is akin to placing a snowball in the oven and hoping for the best.

What I’m trying to say is, this UK team is really, really, really good. And yet, there are still doubts.

The team has played overtime and double overtime games against the University of Mississippi Rebels and Texas A&M University Aggies, respectively, two teams that don’t even begin to compare with UK’s potential.

Then there was the game last Tuesday against Louisiana State University Tigers (LSU), where UK went down to the wire in Baton Rouge.

Does UK bring out the best in its opponents? Probably. As a blue blood program with nine McDonald’s All-Americans (which are the top high school recruits in the country), they essentially have a giant bull’s-eye on their backs wherever they go.

So go the pains with being on top, and for the past five years, UK has very much been on top.

Since the 2009-2010 season, John Calipari’s first at UK, the team has three Final Four appearances, one of which resulted in a NCAA National Championship in 2012. They dominate on and off the court, securing three win ning seasons and number one recruiting classes with ease.

Even with all their accomplishments in mind, there are still worries about some positions.

The guard play was spotty the entire year. Sophomore Aaron Harrison is the most consistent contributor this year, but twin brother Andrew Harrison, freshmen Devin Booker and Tyler Ullis have all seen considerable time at the other guard position.

The team also struggled in some instances to maintain a lead. Against LSU, the UK lead by as many as 14, but gave up the lead in the final minutes.

If it weren’t for the late game heroics by freshmen Karl-Anthony Towns and Booker, the LSU Tigers may have pulled off one of the most stunning upsets in recent memory.

All of this essentially amounts to nitpicking, but championships are won and lost in the minor details. UK still remains the odds on favorite to win the title, something no rational fan in the country should quibble with.

Their upcoming South Eastern Conference (SEC) schedule does not have an opponent anywhere near formidable enough to give them a real challenge, so there is a strong likelihood that they enter the NCAA tournament as an undefeated number one seed.

If they were to sweep the remainder of their schedule and dance their way to a title game, this Wildcat team will go down in history as one of the greatest of all time.

On the other hand, however, if they were to fall in March, it would be one of the biggest failures in basketball history.

I do not say that as hyperbole. This team is one of the most dominant teams of all time. They are on pace to be the most effective defensive team in the history of college basketball.

They are fielding a team that could see as many as nine players taken in the NBA Draft this year. If they fail to win it all, they will be known forever as the best team that couldn’t get it done. For UK, there is no middle ground.

And March Madness is going to be much more interesting because of them.



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