You know why? They are the least battle tested of any of the teams left in the tournament. The least. Sure they are undefeated. And yes earlier in the year they beat a few quality teams in Arkansas, North Carolina, Kansas, Bobby Hurley’s Buffalo, UCLA and Louisville. Actually, Arkansas was the last really good team Kentucky faced in the SEC championship game. However, the Wildcat’s tournament run has been unimpressive – Hampton (16), Cincinnati (8) and West Virginia (5). Ok, they blew West Virginia out of the gym, but West Virginia was no match at all and if you think the Mountaineers prepared UK to face Notre Dame, you are delusional.
The thing is, many of Kentucky’s wins this year came against horribly inferior teams that a good high school team could have taken down, teams like Grand Canyon, Columbia, Texas-Arlington (known more for debate, than basketball), Montana State, Boston University and Missouri. The sobering truth is that the ACC has been a much stronger conference than the SEC this year. All the other SEC teams that made the tournament fell early including Ole Miss, Arkansas, LSU and Georgia. Whereas, the ACC still has 3 teams standing in the Elite 8: Louisville, Notre Dame and Duke. And while Kentucky beat Louisville in December at Louisville by 8 and held the Cards to only 1 assist, that’s right 1 assist, they only had 2 blocked shots, a season low; they average almost 7 a game. Apart from Louisville, the Cats haven’t played any of the other Elite 8 teams, while Notre Dame has beaten Louisville, Michigan State and Duke twice. Ok, they did also lose to Duke once by 30 points, but it was a fluke game @ Duke.
The point I am making is that Notre is battle tested and Kentucky is not. Kentucky may think they are better than they are which could lead to them underestimating the talent and fight of the Fighting Irish. And if overconfidence and a weak schedule don’t bring down the Cats, the pressure of being and staying undefeated will. There have only been 7 teams to finish the year undefeated, and the last team to do it was Indiana almost 40 years ago before the age of the 64 team tournament. The only teams that made it to the Final Four undefeated since the 64 teams era were Indiana State in 1979, who lost to Michigan State in the Finals (Bird v. Magic); UNLV in 1991, who lost to Duke in the Semis and now Kentucky. Could this young Kentucky team with only three Seniors, all guards who play less than 2 minutes a game, actually pull it off? If history is any indication, there’s simply no way, not a chance – March Madness ends today for the Wildcats today.