There’s no more doubt about it. The Kentucky Wildcats are the best team in the NCAA Tournament this year.
In yesterday’s Sweet Sixteen matchup at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, the No. 1 Wildcats simply dominated the No. 5 West Virginia Mountaineers in a 78-39 massacre. West Virginia was outshot, outplayed, out-rebounded, basically out-everythinged. From start to finish, it felt more like a game between the Harlem Globetrotters and Washington Generals than a Sweet Sixteen game pitting two of the best teams in the country against each other.
To add insult to injury, West Virginia lost this game after freshman guard Daxter Miles guaranteed that the Mountaineers would win and give the Wildcats their first defeat of the season.
The signature aggressive man-to-man defense employed by West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins was simply not present in this game, as Kentucky just could not be stopped. The team shot a collective 48 percent from the field and saw five players score in double figures, with freshman forward Trey Lyles leading the way with 14 points and seven rebounds as his team’s overall record improved to 37-0.
The same could not be said for the Mountaineers, who were simply overwhelmed by the size and skill of the Wildcats. West Virginia shot just 24 percent for the game and committed 13 turnovers. Senior Juwan Staten led the way with 14 points in his final college game.
Next up for Kentucky will be a Saturday date with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Elite Eight, with a trip to the Final Four on the line. For Kentucky, it’s about keeping the perfect season going and making the trip to Indianapolis for the Final Four and, hopefully, the championship game. In Notre Dame’s case, it’s about playing in the team’s first Elite Eight game since 1979 and hoping its feisty, fast-paced attack can keep up with Kentucky coach John Calipari’s dribble-drive offense.
Regardless of how that game turns out, there is no further doubt that Kentucky is the best team in the tournament. Based on tonight’s game alone, it doesn’t look like that there is any team that can beat them, regardless of how strong an offensive or defensive attack it has.
Come Saturday, it’s going to be interesting to see how the Wildcats handle Notre Dame.*Section Photo credit to Aaron Josefczyk, AP Photo; Featured Photo (above) credit to Mark Zerof, USA Today Sports