Elite 8 Preview: Midwest region
What I thought was a tough draw for the undefeated Wildcats, has been nothing but a cake walk for them. The Wildcats have outscored their opponents 221-146 in their first three games, while their opponents are shooting 28% from the field. Nothing but domination from the Wildcats in the first three rounds but now they will face the best offensive team they've seen all year; Notre Dame.
Notre Dame's run to the Elite 8 wasn't as dominant as Kentucky's but it was impressive. After overcoming a tough round of 64 and 32, they gave the Wichita State Shockers their 5th loss of the season, 81-70. Four starters scored in double figures for the Irish, surprisingly enough, Jerian Grant was the only one who scored less than 10 points but he did dished out 11 dimes. The Irish haven't shot less than 45% so far this tournament, proving why they are one of the best offensive teams in the country.
Of course the Wildcats are the favorites in this game, and rightfully so. Between the 36-0 record and the double digit victories, it look like they will walk into the Final Four for the second straight season. Cincy found a chink in the armor on the rebounding aspect, which help them stay in the game. Notre Dame is ranked 252nd in the country in rebounding, averaging only 33 a game. This will surely go into the Wildcats favor because they have 4 trees that control the paint.
Notre Dame will have to do what Cincy did and hit the boards hard, even the guards. I don't think the Wildcats will stop the Irish from scoring and hitting the trey ball, which they did well against Wichita State, knocking down 47% of there threes. The Irish will have to make this an end up and down to keep those trees out of the paint, but play some exceptional transition defense too because UK can play that style too. Demetrius Jackson could be the most important player in the game which his dribbling and ability to run the fast break. If he can score like he did against the Shockers, going 4-5 from behind the arc, the Irish will be in good shape.
It is in the Irish favor that the Wildcats have not seen an offensive team of their caliber. I don't know anyone that would question how good UK is defensively, but I'm curious to see how they will try to stop the Irish. The Wildcats also have't seen a player like Jerrian Grant none this season and I'm curious to see how they will stop him. I'm not sure if they have anyone that could contain him, so I expect them to do it as a team. Also Pat Connaughton, who I think is one of the most underrated players is the country, is due for another big game, dropping a double-double (16 points & 10 boards) against the Shockers.
The Wildcats depth and length will be the deciding factor. Having those trees down there has been heaven on earth for coach Calipari, and they know how to stay out of foul trouble. Even if one did get in foul trouble, like Karl Anthony Towns did against WVU, Calipari still has another one to rely on, like Dakari Johnson who contributed 24 quality minutes with 12 points, 2 blocks, and 6 boards. The Irish don't have one player taller than 6'11, while the Wildcats have three. Zach Auguste will have his hands full trying to maintain a presence in the paint. Also the Irish don't have 10 players they could out there, running only 7 players.
If I had to pick a winner in this one, it would be Kentucky just because of the length and depth, but I'm not 100% confidence on that pick. i think the Irish could beat the Wildcats because of their ability to score but they will need to win the rebound the battle.