Something extraordinary will have to happen for Kentucky not to win the national championship, several television analysts said Monday. Reggie Miller of Turner Sports suggested divine intervention as a necessary element for such an upset.
"You've got to play out of your mind," the former UCLA and NBA star said, "and hope that on that particular day — on that magical Monday — they are not at their best."
The reference to "magical Monday" suggested that Miller presumed that Kentucky will advance to the NCAA Tournament championship game.
Even that combination of opponent excelling and UK at less than full efficiency might not be enough, said Miller, who spoke on a teleconference sponsored by the networks televising the NCAA Tournament, Turner Sports and CBS.
"And still then, it's going to take almost an act of God," he said. "That's how strongly I feel about Kentucky running the table here.
"But can it be done in a one-and-done situation? Absolutely. But you can have the field. I'm taking Kentucky."
Kentucky takes a 34-0 record into its NCAA Tournament opener Thursday night against the winner of a First Four game between Manhattan and Hampton.
Questions about a theoretical Kentucky loss led analysts for Turner Sports and CBS to reference some of the NCAA Tournament's most memorable upsets: Villanova over Georgetown in 1985 and North Carolina State over Houston in 1983.
Miller turned to professional golf to find a suitable analogy.
"Very much the same way when Tiger (Woods) was winning majors," he said. "Tiger or the field. If you took Tiger, most of the time, you would be right.
"In this case, I'm taking Kentucky. You can have the field."
Clark Kellogg of CBS agreed. He made Kentucky's advancement to a fourth Final Four in John Calipari's six seasons as coach seem like a fait accompli. If the seeds hold true, UK would have to beat Manhattan-or-Hampton, Cincinnati, Maryland and Kansas to reach Indianapolis.
"This team doesn't really have weaknesses," Kellogg said. "I don't see much headwind, quite honestly. ... I just don't see any of these (teams in the region) really being able to give Kentucky much of a challenge. They're that good. I don't see a team in that bracket that presents anything that would be close to a scary challenge for them."
Dan Bonner agreed.
"Maryland has the best chance," he said of a potential Sweet 16 game against Kentucky. "But they'd have to play a perfect game. They'd have to be Villanova against Georgetown. And I don't see that happening."
Villanova made 22 of 28 shots to beat Georgetown 66-64 in the 1985 championship game.
Maybe not 22-of-28, but good shooting is a must to beat Kentucky, the analysts agreed. That echoed comments made throughout the season when someone posed the question of how-to-beat question.
"As silly as it sounds, you have to score," Bonner said. "... Nobody's going to beat Kentucky 57-56."
Besides the ability to score, especially from the perimeter, an opponent must be good, if not great, on defense, and rebound with the Cats.
"I don't think anybody in the region is going to do it," Bonner said. "So it's going to have to be in the Final Four."
Bonner suggested Duke, Wisconsin and Arizona as opponents that fit the bill.
"So, I don't think it'll be a cakewalk for Kentucky," he said.
Kellogg added Villanova and Notre Dame, the latter the No. 3 seed in Kentucky's region.
Notre Dame playing "at the highest level of their capability as an offensive team would maybe give Kentucky some resistence," he said.
In lauding UK's guard play at the Southeastern Conference Tournament, Calipari likened Andrew and Aaron Harrison's play to their contributions in last year's Final Four run.
"If there are two better guards out there ... ," he said before his voice trailed off. The UK coach noted the Harrisons' size, strength, skills with either hand, passing, shooting, rebounding and improving weak-side defense.
Aaron made 12 of 25 shots and averaged 12 points in Nashville. Andrew made 13 of 29 shots, averaged 13 points and had eight assists and two turnovers. Each made six of 11 three-point shots.
Tyler Ulis made five of 12 shots, averaged seven points and had a four-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio (16 assists, four turnovers).
A fourth UK guard, Devin Booker, made only six of 15 shots and averaged 6.3 points.
"I think you'll see Devin in the (NCAA) tournament get back to the way he was playing, losing himself in the game," Calipari said. "I think there are times he's thinking a little too much because he was playing so well. The expectation was every shot was going in."