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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Tyler Kolek. Senior 6'3" 195 lbs. 15.0 ppg 7.6 ast. Tyler Kolek, PG. . . Tyler Kolek, PG. 2. player. 474

For as good as Ighodaro is, if Tyler Kolek is healthy, then he’s the best player on Marquette’s roster, no question. Kolek is a very ball-dominant point guard, but for good reason, shooting 48.6% from the field and an even 40% from three, along with his 7.6 assists to just 2.8 turnovers. 

At times, Kolek can get a bit too ambitious as a passer, which can lead to live-ball turnovers, which Sheppard would feast on and turn into run-outs the other way, but for the most part, Kolek will play a very clean style of basketball and drive Marquette offensively. The Golden Eagles are 22nd in adjusted offensive efficiency and score nearly 80 points per game while playing at a much slower pace than Kentucky. 

Outside of Kolek, I don’t trust Marquette’s secondary ball-handlers. Kam Jones is a quality scorer and Chase Ross can be a spark plug off the bench, but neither are reliable handlers with a tight enough dribble to be the primary initiator for a Sweet 16 or Elite Eight-caliber team. 

Despite all of his offensive exploits, Kolek is far from an elite defender, and if Cal is willing to play Dillingham, Sheppard, and Reeves together, he’ll have nowhere to hide defensively. So, if Kentucky meets Marquette in the Sweet 16, that will have to be the game plan.