The 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats are on a historic run this season, and after going 34-0 during the regular season, everybody is tuning in to see if they can cap off an undefeated season with a National Championship. Kentucky has not been beat this season, but that does not mean that they cannot be beaten.
Playing Hampton in the first round they easily won and did whatever they wanted to on the court, typical of a 1 vs 16 match up. In the next round they faced Cincinnati, a tough gritty team that is physical, but at the end of the game was not talented enough and Kentucky won by double digits. Then they were matched up with West Virginia who many thought could give them trouble with their press and defensive intensity; that lasted for about 5 minutes into the game. Kentucky obliterated West Virginia in every way possible and really made a statement about their intentions. Then came Notre Dame. Notre Dame is not a typical basketball team, they spread you out and make you guard with 3-4 shooters spacing the floor every single possession. It was a back and forth game and one of the best of the tournament. Kentucky closed the game shooting 9 for 9 from the field and won by 2 late in a very close game.
The strength of Kentucky is obviously talent, but blending talents that allow them to be successful. They have length, size, speed at every position and talent that has been to a Final Four. Their offense can be stagnant and slower in the half court at times but they execute and can play out of the post inside out, using their size to their advantage. Calipari has been talked about in coaching circles for awhile and has been criticized for his lack of X’s & O’s, but he runs good sets to get his players scoring opportunities.
To open up each game, if a team is playing man, they run what Calipari calls “Thumbs Up.”
There are numerous options to attack off of in this set, and in the NCAA tournament Calipari added a wrinkle for a lob set.
Kentucky has been dominant all season, but that does not mean they don’t have weaknesses or can’t be beaten, they can. Notre Dame exposed ways to beat Kentucky by spreading the floor with shooters and attacking in space. Kentucky almost always plays with two big men on the floor at all times and Notre Dame took advantage of this by playing with one true big man and a big guard who can shoot the ball. If you want to beat Kentucky you will have to attack similar to Notre Dame by spreading the floor. Here are some examples of this:
Wisconsin has 5 players that can play inside and outside, attack individually and as a team and can space the floor with shooters. They have a good chance to win if they can execute, space the floor and win the rebounding battle.
If Kentucky is going to make history they will need to continue what they have done the entire year, compete and play defense. Their ability to execute and use their size & speed can propel them to an National Championship.