John Clay: 25 reasons Kentucky can win it all

jclay@herald-leader.comMarch 8, 2012 

It starts in the Big Easy, and Kentucky hopes it ends in the Big Easy.

Starting Friday at New Orleans Arena, with Kentucky's opening game in the SEC Tournament, there are 25 days through the national championship game April 2 at the Superdome in New Orleans.

Anything can happen, right? A bad matchup. A bad shooting night. A bad call. A series of bad calls.

Still, here are 25 reasons to believe Kentucky can win it all.

1. No disrespect to Kansas' Thomas Robinson, but Anthony Davis is the nation's best player. Don't believe me? Ask NBA scouts.

2. Davis' game is still expanding. Through 29 games, the 6-foot-10 freshman had not made a three-pointer. The final two games of the regular season, he made one three-pointer in each game.

3. Davis has made 23 of 29 field goals over his last six games.

4. Davis is averaging 10.5 rebounds over his last four games.

5. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to the media on Tuesday: "We're just getting started."

6. Terrence Jones is playing his best basketball of the season, scoring in double figures five of the last six games.

7. Kentucky is one of five teams to win a BCS conference by as many as six games. Four of the five went on to win the national championship.

The exception was the 1974-75 Indiana team that lost to Kentucky in the Mideast Region finals.

8. Doron Lamb has made 19 of 20 free throws over his last nine games.

9. After Marquis Teague committed three turnovers in the first three minutes against Vanderbilt on Feb. 25, he finished with 14 assists and just four turnovers.

10. Teague has figured out how to play against a zone defense.

11. Kyle Wiltjer has made nine of 12 three-pointers over the season's last seven games.

12. Kentucky won its 16 SEC regular-season games by an average margin of 16.2 points.

13. Kentucky won its eight SEC road games by an average margin of 14.5 points.

14. Only two SEC teams, Alabama (71) and Vanderbilt (74), scored more than 64 points on Kentucky during the regular season.

15. Kentucky needs to prove this "they-need-a-loss" theory is nonsense. Would the 1996 Cats have not won the national title had they not lost to Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament that year? It's an all-too-convenient argument.

16. Kansas was 24-1 when it lost to Kansas State last season and still ended up losing in the Elite Eight. Kansas was 27-1 when it lost at Oklahoma State two years ago, and then lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

17. Kentucky has held 64 straight opponents below 50 percent shooting from the field.

Connecticut — in last season's Maui Invitational — was the most recent team to shoot better than 50 percent against UK, and the Huskies went on to win the title.

18. As good as the Kentucky defense has been, stats guru Ken Pomeroy ranks the UK offense as the second-most efficient in the country, behind only Missouri.

19. Darius Miller is the best sixth man in the country.

20. This is why Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb came back.

21. Kentucky was behind at the half in six games this season. It won five. The only loss was at Indiana on that last-second shot by Christian Watford.

22. Even Jeff Hathaway, the chairman of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, said on a teleconference Wednesday that Kentucky and Syracuse are the nation's best two teams.

23. Because Jim Nantz picked Indiana, not Kentucky, to reach the Final Four.

24. Jeff Sagarin's computer says Kentucky is the best team in the nation, by nearly two whole points — UK 95.31, Ohio State 93.44.

25. John Calipari is the best coach out there who hasn't won a national championship. Yet.

John Clay: (859) 231-3226.Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com.Twitter: @johnclayiv.

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