[Moderated by Matt Jones]
I know, I’m jumping the gun a little bit on this one, but I can’t help myself. We still would need to see UK beat Iowa State and VCU would need to beat Indiana for this post to even be relevant, but still, I enjoy speculating.
Only two 2011 Final Four teams remain and those two teams are UK and VCU. A fair amount of the country thought we would see a UK/UCONN rematch, but that is no longer possible. Instead, it’s possible that the Cats could run into the VCU Rams, the other team that lost in last year’s Final Four.
Both teams have already advanced past round one this season, and both did so in impressive fashion. I’m sure most of the country is cheering the Rams to be another Cinderella story, and if they weren’t in the South region, I’d be on that bandwagon.
For now, let’s assume that both VCU and UK win—what would be the outcome?
For starters, it’s worth noting that (obviously) this year’s Cats are better than last year’s. While the 2010-11 version of UK made the Final Four, I don’t think anyone would debate that the squad led by Anthony Davis is better. The defense is completely solid and the offense is unstoppable at times.
What about the Rams? Why should the Cats have any fear if they run into the CAA champs? First of all, Shaka Smart has proved to be a pretty decent coach. He keeps his players’ morale up and maintains a good gameplan—he seems to be a mini Tom Izzo. Of course, that’s based on last year’s success and the upset of Witchita State yesterday.
On paper, the Cats dominate the Rams—they score better, rebound better, play defense better, etc. However, the same could be said last year when VCU met Kansas in the tournament. Low and behold, the Rams came out on top.
John Calipari is a magnificent coach, which is pretty obvious. The key to this game won’t be anything on the court—it’s the manner in which the teams are coached. It sounds silly, but Shaka Smart has already coached a fairly mediocre team to the Final Four. If you ask me, he’s got a better team this season, and one with more potential. Talent-wise, they don’t match up to the powerful Cats, but I don’t rule out Smart.
Should this game happen, you can bet that Smart will tell his guys to drive inside as much as possible. Why? As I’ve said, Smart is a “smart” guy (pardon the pun). If he scouts the UK team, he’ll know that if Davis gets in trouble, the team is in trouble. Yes, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the rest are capable of picking up the slack—but ask VCU’s third round opponents about what happens to UK when Davis can’t play his normal minutes.
This is the matchup I’m praying to see. I’d love to watch the Cats take the Hoosiers to school and get their revenge, but give me the mid-majors!
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