Ranking the 10 best players in the South Region that Kentucky could face on the way to the Final Four

John Calipari and the Wildcats will have a tough road to the Final Four out of the South Region in the NCAA Tournament, and these are the players in the way of the Wildcats and Final Four No. 19.

Houston Cougars guard Jamal Shead (1)
Houston Cougars guard Jamal Shead (1) / William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports
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The Kentucky Wildcats haven’t made it out of their region in the NCAA Tournament since 2015. For that matter, John Calipari hasn’t even gotten the Cats to the Regional Final since 2019. For a true blueblood like Kentucky, droughts like this are wholly unacceptable, so despite a “lifetime contract” there’s pressure on Cal to deliver a deep run after an SEC Tournament disaster. 

With Reed Sheppard, the potential No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft, and Antonio Reeves, a likely All-American, Kentucky will almost always have the best player on the floor in its South Region matchups, but who could spoil the fun?

The South Region, with Houston on the one-line, Marquette at the two, and fellow blue-blood Duke looming as the No. 4 seed, is loaded with talent, especially in the backcourt. So to get back to the Final Four, Sheppard, Reeves, and Dillingham will need to go toe-to-toe with some of the very best guards in the country. 

We know that Kentucky will face Oakland in Round 1, but the rest of the path is uncertain and could be littered with these 10 players.

Junior 6'0" 175 lbs. Wade Taylor IV, PG. 10. Wade Taylor IV, PG. player. Wade Taylor IV. . . 18.9 ppg 4.0 ast. 535

Kentucky has certainly had its issues dealing with Taylor, as recently as the last time the Wildcats took the floor. In Texas A&M’s quarterfinal win over the Wildcats, Taylor went for 32 points on 11-24 shooting and 6-14 from beyond the arc.

He’s a volume scorer for the Aggies, one Buzz Williams’s defensive-minded unit desperately needs, but he’s far from efficient. Anyone guard can be against Kentucky’s perimeter defense, however, for the season, Taylor is shooting 36.9% from the field and 31.5% from three on 8.2 attempts per game. 

Taylor was one of the eight players named to the All-SEC First Team this season, but for me, if they were cutting the team down to five (as it should be), he’d be an easy exclusion. Defensively, he averages nearly two steals, but he counteracts that with 2.9 turnovers a game. 

There just isn’t enough good to outweigh the missed shots and turnovers, and yet, Taylor comes into the tournament riding back-to-back 30-point games in Nashville. He’d need to keep up that level of scoring for Kentucky to meet A&M in the Elite Eight.