Why 'Cats might be 'greatest'

Anthony Davis, Eloy Vargas and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, of the Kentucky Wildcats, celebrate their...

Anthony Davis, Eloy Vargas and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, of the Kentucky Wildcats, celebrate their 82-70 win over the Baylor Bears. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AFP)

RICHARD ZUSSMAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:25 PM ET

The Kentucky Wildcats are two wins away from a national championship. But a pair of wins in New Orleans could mean a lot more than another title for the ’Cats. This could be the greatest college basketball team of all time.

Hold on you say, how could this team be better than the undefeated UCLA powers of the 1960s, well I’ll tell you.

The 2011-12 Wildcats have the best top-end talent ever assembled in college basketball. Six players average double figures. This is a near impossible feat in the world of one-and-dones. The depth has been so good it’s almost like the ’Cats are cheating and got head Coach John Calipari to proclaim “we have seven starters.”

You wonder how could this two-loss team be better than past undefeateds? Well, the first loss was on a Christian Watford buzzer-beater, a 72-71 win for Indiana. It’s also a win Kentucky avenged with a 102-90 whooping of the Hoosiers in the Sweet 16. The second loss was against Vanderbilt, a 71-64 final in the SEC championships. The game played on Selection Sunday meant nothing to the Wildcats in terms of seeding for the NCAA tournament.

Here’s how the No. 1, possibly greatest of all time Kentucky Wildcats break down:

DEPTH

What will good recruiting get you, good players. Calipari is considered the best recruiter in the new era of college basketball where players can’t jump straight to the pros from high school. Seven players on this team could play in the NBA next season (although some will be back in blue and white next year.) Canadian Kyle Wiltjer is the only one who didn’t average double digit scoring. But look at it this way, if he played 30 minutes (instead of 11) and kept up his same production he would average nearly 15 points a game. There just aren’t enough minutes to go around, a challenge very few college coaches in history have had to deal with.

SCORING

This is far from the highest scoring team of all time. The times of Loyola-Maramount and UNLV putting up 100 points a night is gone from the NCAA. The ’Cats were rated by basketball analyst Ken Pomeroy as having the second most efficient offence, a better measure of scoring ability. Beyond efficiency what makes the team the best is the different ways they score. Anthony Davis shot a mind boggling 63% from the field. Doron Lamb hit three pointers at a 47% pace. MKG is just now getting into his scoring groove, leading Kentucky with 43 points in the two games last weekend.

DEFENCE

Brady Heslip was the hottest player in college basketball entering last weekend, then he met the Wildcats. Kentucky schemed to stop the sharp shooting Canadian and held him to just four points. Quincy Acy was able to score for Baylor on the inside, but it was the Bears’ inability to get the ball to go in that got them behind. The ’Cats eventually cruised to a very easy 82-70 win.

BOTTOM LINE

It will take years to fully understand how great this Wildcats team is. Freshmen Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague will likely jump straight to the NBA. In the past it has been hard to evaluate teams that have so much turnover. But as one-and-dones become more the norm than the exception this team will be evaluated as the best. The key though is winning this weekend.

OTHER ‘GREATS’

UCLA Bruins 1966-68: One loss in three seasons is pretty impressive. So are the two national titles. But how do they compare to this year’s ’Cats. The Bruins were led by Lew Alcindor, the most dominant college player of all time. The man better known to fans as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar made this team go in the middle. But how would Anthony Davis stack up with the 7-foot-2 legend? I think pretty well and if you look at what the ’Cats have around them this matchup would be a slam dunk for Calipari’s team.

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels 1989-91: Duke learned firsthand how good this team was, the Runnin’ Rebels crushed the Blue Devils by 40 in the 1990 national championship. Four players on the team went to the NBA, included in the mix was 1991 national player of the year Larry Johnson.

UCLA Bruins 1971-73: Back to back undefeated national championship seasons are pretty impressive. Bill Walton was the heart and soul of these Bruins teams, winning player of the year both seasons.

Duke Blue Devils 1990-92: The greatest shot in college basketball fits well on one of the greatest teams. Christian Laettner’s turn-around buzzer beater in the 1992 national semifinal propelled Duke to the national title. The team also included mega college stars Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill, but existed in a time when players stuck around four years and could develop their games.

2011-12 NCAA ALL-AMERICANS

Thomas Robinson, Jared Sullinger and Anthony Davis picked up some hardware Monday. They are all hoping to do the same in a week’s time. The trio were named to the AP All-American team a week before the national championship they hope to be a part of.

Robinson’s Kansas team takes on Sullinger and the Ohio State Buckeyes Saturday. Davis and his Wildcats play the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday as well. The trio was joined on the all-star team by Doug McDermott and Draymond Green. Robinson finished on the team as the only unanimous choice after he averaged 17.9 points and 11.8 rebounds this season in leading the Jayhawks to the Final Four.

The most famous uni-brow in America joins Robinson on the team. Davis captured 63 out of 65 votes and is the only freshman on the team. In his first season for Kentucky he averaged 14.3 points and 10 rebounds per game. Sullinger returns to the team after he received the honour as a freshman. The Buckeyes go-to-guy scored 17.6 points and snagged 9.3 boards a game.

McDermott is now Creighton’s first All-American and just the second (along with Peter Maravich) All-American to be coached by their father. Green becomes the fourth Michigan State player to receive the honour and joins Magic Johnson, Mateen Cleaves and Shawn Respert.

Junior guard Isaiah Canaan of Murray State highlighted the second team with seniors Marcus Denmon of Missouri, Tyler Zeller of North Carolina, Jae Crodwer of Marquette and Kevin Jones of West Virginia.

Canadians Kris Joseph of Syracuse and St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson were named honourable mentions. The voting was done before the NCAA tournament.

KABONGO STAYS IN SCHOOL

Canadian Myck Kabongo has put the NBA on hold. The Texas freshman guard will return to the Longhorns next season. The Toronto native was the most hotly recruited Canadian in history and was hoping to join fellow Canadian Tristan Thompson in the Longhorns’ lineup this past season.

But Thompson couldn’t resist the lure of the pros, being selected fourth overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers last summer.

Kobongo however has resisted the urge. He told the Longhorn Network Monday that he was excited to be back.

“I think that being at Texas is the best thing for me. It’s about being ready,” he said. “I want to be someone who is ready to play and contribute at the next level.

As a freshman Kabongo averaged 9.6 points, 5.2 assists and three rebounds a game. The point guard was considered a late first round or early second round pick. The announcement came out the same day individual workouts begin for Longhorn players.

Texas made the NCAA tournament for the 14th straight season, falling to Cincinnati 65-59 in the first round. Leading scorer J’Covan Brown may not follow Kabongo back to Austin. The team’s leading scorer may skip his final season for the NBA.


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