Kentucky Wildcats basketball being what it is, virtually every season starts out the way this one did: with dreams of clipping the nets and hoisting a trophy. Now that they are the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, those dreams are as real as ever.
Even in the pantheon of great Kentucky teams, this one has stood out from the start. There are no fewer than five players on this team expected to be picked in the NBA Draft. Among them are freshmen Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb and senior Darius Miller.
Led by that fivesome, the Wildcats were tabbed as the No. 3 team in the nation during preseason polls. It didn't take long for them to move up the charts. By the second week of the season, they had moved up to No. 2 and by Nov. 28, they got their first taste of the No. 1-ranking after starting the season 6-0.
As it turned out, that time at the top was relatively short-lived as the Wildcats followed up a 73-72 win over then-No. 5 North Carolina with a one-point loss to Indiana on Dec. 10. That turned out to be a mere speed bump during their incredible season as the Wildcats reeled off 24 straight wins. Included in that string of victories were wins over four ranked teams. The Wildcats were so dominant, in fact, that they only won by fewer than five points once.
Of course, the run of dominance came to end in the finals of the SEC Tournament when the Wildcats dropped a 71-64 decision to Vanderbilt. The game was neither particularly important to the Wildcats nor costly, but it was uncharacteristic. The Wildcats did not score a field goal during the final 8:04 of the game and shot just 35.9 percent from the field. This was from a team that shot 48.3 percent from the field during the season, the 18th best mark in the nation and better than all but three schools from so-called power conferences.
The 71 points they allowed was also particularly uncharacteristic. They had allowed that many just five times all season and gave up an average of just 59.0 points per game, the 12th lowest figure in the country. Vanderbilt shot just 43.1 percent from the field, but that was decidedly better than the 36.8 percent shooting Kentucky normally allows, which is the best mark in the country.
In other words, that loss to Vanderbilt was hardly indicative of the Wildcats' impressive season. Kentucky won more games than any other team and ranked in the top 20 of basically every meaningful statistical category.