During this season, there have been a ton of comparisons between this Kentucky Wildcats team and the 2010-2011 team which struggled mightily through the season and made it to the Final Four. There are valid comparisons between the two. Both are very young and both have had an identity crisis at times at guard positions. The team struggled on the road. However, after a road loss to Arkansas, the team finally played up to their potential, going on a ten game winning streak that ended in the Final Four with a loss to UConn. Twenty six games into this season, I am starting to think this Wildcats team is more similar to the team that beat those 2011 Wildcats — the 2011 UConn Huskies.
The 2010-2011 Connecticut Huskies hardly looked like a National Champion coming down the stretch of their championship season. They were ranked #5 with a 17-2 record in late January, but completely fell apart down the stretch, at one point losing four of five games. They stumbled to the gate going 3-8 their last 11 games and finished 9-9 in the Big East and 21-9 overall. They were more on the bubble than a title contender but a miraculous five game run during the Big East Tournament propelled them into the NCAA tournament and the Huskies ripped off six more wins, culminating in the 2011 National Title.
It was right about this time that the 2011 team hit its stride. The Arkansas loss was on February 23, 2011 and after the loss, the Cats were 19-8 and 7-6 in the SEC. That team was a disaster on the road in the SEC and were 1-6 after Arkansas. This years version is 20-6 and are 5-2 on the road in the SEC.
And to be honest, I think that this years version of the Wildcats are better than the 2011 team for one reason. They have yet to play up to their potential. Against Ole Miss, we saw the best half of the season thus far and saw what happens if this team can knock down a couple more three pointers a game. This team still hits a poor 32.7% of their three-point attempts, a far cry from 2011′s 39.7%. This team is not as depended on the trey, however and even getting a couple more threes a game will be more impactful.
This year, there is no dominant team in the NCAA and even Florida is about as good as they will get. As we have learned every year, John Calipari’s Wildcats get better down the stretch (barring major injury) and this is the time they kick it into gear. This year is starting to feel like the year that a dark horse can kick it into stride and make some serious noise in the NCAA Tournament.