SI Cover: Can anyone end Kentucky's pursuit of perfection?

By Scooby Axson
March 10, 2015
Al Tielemans/Sports Illustrated

The Kentucky Wildcats enter the postseason heavy favorites to cut down the nets in Indianapolis and win their second NCAA championship in the past four years.

The Wildcats, featured on this week’s cover of Sports Illustrated, have rarely been threatened this season, rolling to a 31-0 record heading into this week’s SEC tournament.

Kentucky is the third school in 11 years to finish a regular season undefeated. The last two teams to accomplish the feat were last year's Wichita State squad and Saint Joseph’s in 2004. The Shockers entered the tournament 34-0 and were beaten by Kentucky the third round. Saint Joseph's first defeat was a 20-point blowout loss in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

"There are several teams that could possibly dethrone the Wildcats pursuit of perfection. "Who knows what it's going to take?" Kentucky coach John Calipari said to the Courier-Journal." "If we get dinged, then you'll know what it takes. You'll look at that team and say, 'They did it, and here's what they did.'"

There are several teams that could matchup with Kentucky and play spoiler this March.

Second-ranked Duke has ACC Player of the Year Jahlil Okafor and his talented freshman teammates, while Wisconsin can use its efficient offense and its ability to not turn the ball over to slow down the Cats.

For third-ranked Virginia, the key to possibly slowing down Kentucky is to keep the score low. The Cavaliers rank first in the NCAA in scoring defense (allowing 50.2 points a game) and allow opponents to shoot 35.7 percent from the field. That could be bad news for Virginia as well, because the national leader in that category is….Kentucky (35.1 percent).

Northern Iowa is led by Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year Seth Tuttle. Amazingly, Tuttle is the only Northern Iowa player to average in double figures this season. The Panthers have seven other players who average between 5.0 and 7.7 points a game and have five players who shoot 40 percent or better from three-point range.

Out in the desert, the Arizona Wildcats boasts a frontcourt comparable to Kentucky’s in terms of size. Keeping the Wildcats off the boards is key. Only 23 percent of available offensive rebounds are grabbed by Arizona's opponents this season.

Whether it's those teams, a Cinderella or no one capable of upsetting Kentucky remains to be seen.

Also in this issue are features on Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin, an investigation into sexual assault allegations against former Duke guard Rasheed Sulaimon and the aftermath of North Carolina's academic scandal.

2015 Sports Illustrated Covers

Subscribers and newsstands on the East Coast and the southern states will receive the Virginia cover.

Subscribers and newsstands in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana will receive the Northern Iowa cover.

Subscribers and newsstands in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and the west coast will receive the Arizona cover.

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