By Drew Johnson
I promised I wouldn’t speak of "it". I warned everyone within ten zip codes and internet access not to talk about "it". Like some kind of weird voodoo witch proudly from Eastern Kentucky, I begged Big Blue Nation not to put a hex on the season by discussing "it." "It" wasn’t going to happen. No way, no how. Just don’t go there again. We went down that rocky road last season. Don’t tempt the gods of college basketball, I said. Don’t announce your intentions, lest you want to hear them laugh in our collective Kentucky blue faces. Discussing "it" was forbidden. Punishment meant being voted off BBN Island and ten Hail John Calipari’s. But then I realized something after watching Kentucky absolute manhandle South Carolina in Columbia.
"It" could happen. "It" might just be happening right now before our very own eyes.
Because I am tired of typing quotation marks, and because it is time to get to the point of this article, "it" is defined in the Big Blue Nation Lexington Dictionary as "to go undefeated; to not lose a game; to have eternal bragging rights; to be awesome; to be truly historic; to tell the rest of the college basketball world to kiss our collective backsides."
Let me make this point more crystal clear than a shiny new diamond in a national championship ring: I am not saying "it" WILL happen. I still believe Kentucky will lose at least one game in SEC play. The two game road swing to LSU and to Florida are the most glaring potential missteps left on the schedule. Going undefeated is just too difficult. It’s no wonder only one team since 1976 ran the table and took home the trophy. One of Kentucky’s opponents are going to play out of their minds, and any team is beatable on any given night if things don’t go their way. Even arguably one of Kentucky’s best teams in history can slip up. Like Coach Cal has said time and time again, these kids aren’t robots.
What I AM saying is after cruising through a difficult non-conference schedule, and what is left on the schedule, "it" is possible. We can talk about "it" now. The veil has been lifted. The weight is off our shoulders. So why exactly do I believe an undefeated season can happen?
The SEC is down. Again.
Please don’t count me among the screaming talking heads talking about how terrible the SEC is this season. Look, I get it. The SEC is not the Big 12. It is not the ACC, either. The SEC is soft, granted, but it’s not the worst basketball conference in history. But the fact is that the rest of the conference cannot compete with Kentucky on a nightly basis. The talent disparity is simply too big for another SEC foe to overcome more than once. Platoon #1 could only beat Platoon #2 six out of ten times, and vice versa. Playing Platoon #1 and Platoon #2 against the rest of the conference just isn’t a fair fight.
Kentucky can be terrible on offense and still win games. Comfortably.
Devin Booker has the sweetest stroke I’ve seen since Cameron Mills. Aaron Harrison is the most clutch Kentucky player in history. Trey Lyles has mastered the mid-range game. But what if, for one game, the offense absolutely went into the toilet and couldn’t spit in the ocean? My point is, would it matter? I don’t believe it would. When you have the height, depth, and athleticism Kentucky does, offense doesn’t really matter much. Kentucky’s defense is that smothering, that smoldering, and that dominant. Points will always come, one way or another, even if your shot isn’t falling. But defense can be consistent. It can be applied nightly. That is an advantage no other team in the country has.
The best backcourts win in March.
The aforementioned Booker leads the Wildcats in scoring. His three point accuracy is at insane levels. Throw in Tyler Ullis and the Harrisons and UK has one of the most dynamic backcourts in the country. Experience? Check. Shooting? Check. Size? Check, when the 6-6 Harrisons are on the floor. Defense? Check, check, check, check. Kentucky’s backcourt is tailor-made for a championship.
Willie. Cauley. Stein.
He is seven feet tall. He can guard point guards. He leads Kentucky in steals. He is a matchup nightmare. And he’s just so cool. And he is ours.
Prepare for "it" to happen. Maybe.