Can Anyone Stop Kentucky?

Let's cut to the obvious: Kentucky looks invincible.

They've won every game by double digits, leading the nation with an average margin of victory of 29.1 points. They lead the nation in scoring defense, holding teams to a mere 47.7 points a game. Controlling the ball, their assist to turnover ratio of 1.54:1 is seventh best in the country.

The Wildcats have taken on the nation's perennial powers and turned them into Big Blue Clinics. Kansas? Smoked them by 32. North Carolina? Cruised to a 14 point win.

UCLA? Held them to seven first half points, then won by 39.

Needless to say, Louisville, as well as everyone else, has their work cut out for them. This team is already getting "potential best team ever" consideration. They shoot well. They crash the boards. Their defense is simply relentless. They're deep, fast, athletic ... dangerous.

This is the kind of team that John Calipari has been wanting to build since he arrived in Lexington. This is the kind of team Wildcat fans have been anxiously waiting for since UK hired Calipari. They look unstoppable.

So, the question looms. Can anyone beat the Wildcats?

On any given night, yes. Chaminade took down Ralph Sampson and Virginia. NC State won the 1983 title over Houston, despite media predictions that the Wolfpack's best chance of winning was a bus wreck. Villanova saved their best shooting performance to beat Georgetown and win a title. So it's always possible.

But, to do so, a team will have to be at its absolute best. Then, they have to do the following...

1) Shoot well early. Kentucky's length and defensive prowess is what suffocates opponents. The Wildcats aren't scoring in the hundreds to win games; they're blowing them out on the defensive end. For a team to have a chance, they have to have speed, spread the floor and be able to establish an offensive rhythm early by scorching the nets to start the game.

2) Crash the boards. Kentucky owns the glass and forces teams to have just one shot on most possessions, while allowing themselves frequent chances to strike on the offensive side. Your defense has the unenviable task of blocking out Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson in the paint, so shutting them down isn't going to happen. Containing them and scrapping for rebounds (and any loose ball at that) is essential.

3) Get Willie Cauley-Stein on the bench. It's easier said than done, as Kentucky tends not to get into too much foul trouble. However, a team that can draw fouls on the Cats early can benefit from it, especially if that Cat is Cauley-Stein. UK is extremely deep and talented at every position, so it's not a huge talent hit if you send Cauley-Stein to the bench early. It is, however, a leadership issue. He's a phenomenal leader, a massive defensive presence, and a rare veteran for any Calipari squad. If you frustrate him early and keep him off the court, your chances of winning certainly improve.

4) Hack-A-Cat. The team that gave Kentucky one of its best challenges was the Ivy League's Columbia, who attacked early and forced Kentucky to come back. They also sent Kentucky to the line often, where the Achilles heel of the Wildcats is again revealed. Kentucky's not the best at free throw shooting and if your team is deep enough (though those teams are few and far between), you can slow down Kentucky's offensive rhythm by putting them on the line. The key to this though is that you still have to shoot well on your end. Columbia failed to do this, as have most other teams that have faced the Wildcats.

A team can pull this off, but it'd be tough. Real tough.

That's why, for the first time in decades, the pursuit of an undefeated season is within reach. Even without Alex Poythress, Kentucky's got all the pieces to make history.

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