Round Of 64 Matchup: #8 Kentucky Vs. #9 Kansas State
- CoachingA legend in his own right, Wildcats coach John Calipari boasts an impressive and enviable resume in his time at Kentucky. Since 2009, Calipari has taken his team to the Final Four twice. He’s also been named National Coach of the Year three times in his career. Calipari is a players-first coach and his teams, especially when young, rally around him like no one else.Bruce Weber may not have the accolades that Calipari has, but he’s no stranger to success. After Weber’s first season in 2012, a handful of big name players surprisingly left the program, forcing the coach to rebuild and recruit young players, many of whom are now helping the Wildcats achieve success. But it is hard to compare with a proven record like Calipari’s.
- OffenseKentucky is stacked on offense. Period. Perhaps no other team in the country has the same amount of NBA-potential players on their roster. The starting lineup is comprised of five McDonald’s All-Americans, with another couple waiting on the bench, as well. Six-foot-9 forward Julius Randle is a dynamo who consistently averages a double-double, with 15 points and 10 boards per game – a rare feat.K-State freshman Marcus Foster may not be in the national spotlight, but he’s certainly a young player to watch, and would be especially fun to see in this year’s NCAA tournament if it weren’t for the odds against Kansas State. Still, a half-court offense can slow the pace of the Wildcats game and they’re bad at shooting (43.6 percent, 212th in the nation) and have terrible offensive efficiency (105th in the nation) – something that Calipari and Kentucky are sure to take advantage of.
- DefenseKentucky is one of the best rebounding teams in the country with 41.3 boards per game (fifth in the nation). They also rank ninth with 6.2 blocks per game and their big men are capable of some stellar moves. But the ‘Cats have struggled mightily down the stretch, falling to Arkansas, South Carolina, and three times to top-ranked Florida in the span of only a month.Tough defense is one of the strong-points for coach Weber and his young players. Though the team is inexperienced, they do have an instinct for good defense. The Wildcats lost three-straight games heading into the Big Dance and that lack of momentum may hurt them, but their defense could be a game-changer.
- Bench DepthAs stated before, Kentucky is chock-full of incredibly talented players. Not only is their starting lineup one of the most impressive in the country, but they’ve got some players sitting on the bench that would be great starters elsewhere. Dual 7-footers Dakari Johnson and Willie Cauley-Stein make the Wildcats big up front, and James Young, who averages 14.6 points per game, fills in any holes nicely. But the buck stops at star power forward Julius Randle, who is pretty much unstoppable down low.K-State has some great young players, too, but not to the extent that Kentucky does. While both teams will have their best players out early in the game, only Kentucky will have the talented reserves waiting to step in when needed, and Kansas State will be left wanting.
While it seems like a game between a No. 8 and No. 9 seed should be close, it likely won’t be that close at all. Kentucky has the experience, the momentum and the full roster of talent – a trifecta that just can’t be matched by the young, yet surprisingly good Kansas State team. -Michael Ferro is freelance writer and a graduate of Michigan State University where he majored in Creative Writing and received the Jim Cash Creative Writing Award. Born and bred in Detroit, he currently resides in near Ann Arbor, MI. Additional writing can be found at Examiner.com.