National media still trying to steal Kentucky Wildcats joy

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Shortly after the Kentucky Wildcats defeated the Florida Gators on Saturday, the real crush of perfection began.  For months, the national media has been saying that this Kentucky team would not or could not go undefeated.  There would be infighting and unhappiness as players would not get the minutes they want and this team would melt under the pressure of perfection.  The perfect regular season was only hours old before ESPN’s Myron Medcalf was saying that a national title was not enough for UK, but that Kentucky had to finish perfect.  Really?

"“I want to tell you all, no one will steal my joy,” he said. “If you want to attack what we’re doing, be nasty about it, have at it. You’re not stealing my joy. Coaching, with these kinds of kids, you’re not stealing my joy.” But the public, fans, the media and whoever else make up the “you all” he referenced might diminish Saturday’s feat if Kentucky’s season ends without a national championship. If the Wildcats slip in the SEC tournament and still go on to win the national title, they’ll be remembered as a powerful squad that delivered another ring to the winningest program in the game’s history. The only escape, the only solution, is a flawless season and a national title. That’s no longer a goal; it’s the expectation. History reigns — the 1975-76 Indiana team was the most recent to complete a perfect season — as it should for a team that began the season with nine McDonald’s All Americans and currently features six projected first-round draft picks, according to ESPN’s Chad Ford. “For us, the perfect season doesn’t matter to us,” Karl-Anthony Towns said. “A national championship is what matters to us. That’s what our goal is.”"

Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the regular season is over, the Kentucky Wildcats turn their focus to the SEC and NCAA Tournaments.  That starts on Friday, but I am still basking in the afterglow of the perfect 31-0 season.  Just for a few days anyway.  Billy Donovan said after the game Saturday that this moment should be fully appreciated because we will probably never see this again.

Thinking back, this has probably been one of the more unselfish  teams that you have seen and really only the 1996 National title teams can be considered in the same regard.

"Over the season, eight different Cats have led the team in scoring. Devin Booker leads his teammates having eight games as the leading scorer, including ties, but veterans Willie Cauley-Stein and Aaron Harrison are right behind the freshman with six games in that role. Aaron Harrison and Booker are the top two scorers for UK, averaging 11.2 and 10.9 points per game, respectively. Compare that to what’s going on nationally and the top scorers for the undefeated Cats don’t even rank in the top 250 in Division I basketball, with those at the end of the list averaging 14.3 points per game. Remember, Aaron Harrison also leads the Cats in minutes per game, playing an average of 25.8—that’s 6.8 minutes less than the No. 250 slot nationally. The sixth-leading scorer for UK is Trey Lyles, a player who hit a slump in January and then missed three straight games from an illness. Still, Mr. Versatility has led his team in scoring four times, three of those in the last four games, including the regular season finale against Florida. He gets the storyline his coach is trying to write. “It shows how great the guys on this team are, how much we care for one another and how much we want to win,” Lyles said. “We share the ball. A lot of teams, if they had these players, you wouldn’t be able to say if they shared the ball or not. But we have a lot of great guys on the team that share with one another and that’s what makes us great.”"

Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

At the point, the players are focused on perfection and the national title.  However, they realize that the championship is the main goal although this team really wants the perfect season.  Willie Cauley-Stein is one of the Wildcats that remember the doomed 2013-14 season and how that team was crushed by the expectations of the National Title team that preceded it.  While a title is the end game, WCS does not want to think about a loss.  

"Cauley-Stein had said this week that sometimes when you want something so badly, you can’t get it because you’re trying to hard. That’s been the trap SEC foes and would-be spoilers have fallen into. What prevents Kentucky from the same fate — focusing on the big-picture (a perfect season capped by an NCAA title) too much and suffering a loss — is its roster makeup, players said. “Just competitiveness,” Cauley-Stein said. “Losing is next to death. That’s the way you play. Practice is like that.” Does he remember what it a loss feels like, its sour taste? “No,” he said. “I don’t want to remember what it’s like to lose.”​"