NCAA tournament team previews: Kentucky Wildcats
As part of its preview of the 2014 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team's national rank. For more teams, click here.
Record: 24-10, 12-6 in SEC
Adjusted offense / Adjusted defense: 115.0 (19th) / 96.3 (31st)
Seed: No. 8 in Midwest
Impact player: Julius Randle, freshman forward, 15.3 points, 10.6 rebounds, 50.9 percent shooting.
The Case For:
It depends on just how much faith you have in Kentucky's talent. Is the ability the Wildcats have truly as good as everyone believed it to be, or are 34 games of relative inconsistency too large a sample size to shrug off?
The pieces are certainly there offensively. Kentucky has a top-20 offense in terms of efficiency, with four players averaging in double figures. And Kentucky's size with the 6-9 Randle and 7-footers Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson will bother people. The Wildcats rank No. 2 in the nation with a rebounding percentage of 56.4, and No. 1 in offensive rebound percentage at 42.5. Even if they are just a decent shooting team -- 50 percent effective field goal percentage -- they can and will create second opportunities for themselves.
Defensively, Kentucky is better than you might think, ranking 34th in adjusted defensive efficiency. The 'Cats can make it hard to score around the rim, too. They block 6.2 shots per game, eighth nationally.
The Case Against:
The Wildcats simply haven't done it consistently against high-end teams. They were 4-6 against the top 100, with two of those wins coming against Providence and Louisville in December -- before either of those teams got on the late runs that carried them to conference tournament titles.
Randle can be bothered by size inside and has not consistently finished around the rim against taller opponents. In fact, if the 'Cats can't get it going inside the three-point line, they might not get it going at all. Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison and James Young all shoot 37 percent or worse from long distance.
Everyone has been waiting all season for Kentucky to look for a full 40 minutes like the No. 1 team it was picked to be in the preseason. It hasn't happened consistently enough to convince observers that it will now start happening with any kind of regularity.
SI prediction: Beat Kansas State in second round, lose to Wichita State in third roundView complete bracket predictions from SI.com's panel of experts