Last year, Kentucky lost a great NCAA championship game to Connecticut, and they have been on target to get back and finish what they lost last year. Kentucky at 34-0 is in the unique position of doing what only a very few teams have achieved: a perfect season. It rarely happens. Last time was 1976, Indiana University, 32-0. UCLA, Kentucky, Indiana — those programs have accomplished such a feat.
But we are reminded as recently as last year when Wichita State was 31-0 and, like Kentucky, was No. 1 entering the NCAA tournament. Las Vegas says even money the Wild Cats can do it.
It takes a special team to weather that storm, navigating through the field as the pressure mounts. Obviously there are several teams that can ruin the Wild Cats’ season, like Villanova, Duke, Wisconsin — are all No. 1 seeds.
Then there are Arizona, Virginia, Louisville and North Carolina, all very good and capable teams that are well coached. Kentucky’s John Calipari is obviously a great coach, and Mike Krzyzewski of Duke seems to get the best talent every year. He is not the most respected or well-liked coach, but if he goes 40-0 he will climb to the top of the coaching circles.
This year the BIG got seven teams — Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan State, Purdue, Indiana, Ohio State and Iowa — in the NCAA. Wisconsin is for the first time a No. 1 seed, and remember, they were a Final Four team last year.
The brain trust at Minnesota ran Tubby Smith out of town after beating UCLA in the field of 32 three years ago and after three NCAA appearances in six years. Young Richard Pitino for the second year in a row has failed to reach the field of 68. So far, the magic Pitino name has not delivered.
This year the Gophers with 18-15 did not cut it. They were 11th in the 14-team BIG and failed to even get and invite to defend the NIT title of last spring. When schools like North Dakota State and Northern Iowa are NCAA teams, it’s embarrassing and makes you wonder what the heck is going on at the University of Minnesota.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.