Cats are the beneficiary of the madness

Published 1:18 pm Monday, March 19, 2018

No team may have benefited more from March madness than Kentucky. While the Cats didn’t have the toughest bracket possible, there were still some teams that posed a serious threat to them when the tournament kicked off.

Fast forward to the Sweet 16, and it would be hard to argue that the Cats should be a favorite to advance to the Final Four. Everything that could have fallen in Kentucky’s favor did so.

Two of the favorites to advance out of the South bracket never made it past the first round. The biggest shocker of the round came when University of Maryland – Baltimore County (UMBC) became the first No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in Virginia. Arizona getting demolished by Buffalo was also unexpected.

With those two losses, Kentucky lost two of their biggest threats in the South region. Even Tennessee, who defeated Kentucky two times in the regular season, couldn’t withstand being upset losing in the second round to Loyola Chicago — who advanced to the Round of 32 by upsetting Miami.

A loss to Nevada cost No.2-seeded Cincinnati a chance to advance to the Sweet 16 as well. Through all the chaos, Kentucky is the highest remaining seed in the South region.

Instead of worrying about Virginia in the Sweet 16, the Cats have to battle Kansas State. If they make it past that game, they are looking at either Loyola Chicago or Nevada for a chance to play in the Final Four. I would call that a pretty favorable path.

An added bonus is that Kentucky is playing their best basketball at a time where it counts. Since the SEC Tournament began earlier in the month, the Cats have looked like the team many hoped they would be at the beginning of the year.

While some players have incredibly underwhelmed — Nick Richards and Hamidou Diallo at times — the likes of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PJ Washington and Kevin Knox have helped Kentucky down the stretch.

Add in Wenyen Gabriel and Quade Green, and Kentucky looks like one of the most talented teams remaining in the tournament not named Duke or Villanova. If not for those two teams, I would probably pick Kentucky to win the whole tournament.

Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN