When Butler played UConn in last year's national championship game, disappointment was widespread. The lack of elite talent, poor coaching decisions and woeful shooting by both teams left fans aghast at what was supposed to be an exciting culmination to an NCAA Tournament that had been defined by upsets and cinderellas.
Don't expect anything better Monday night when Kentucky takes on Kansas, for the Wildcats simply have too much talent for the Jayhawks to handle.
These two teams faced off earlier this season, a November nonconference clash at Madison Square Garden. The Wildcats came away with a 10-point victory, but the score doesn't tell the entire story.
It was in this game—this near-meaningless, early-season tuneup—that Kentucky exhibited its relentless defense, its pristine, workman-like offense and its unrivaled talent.
Thomas Robinson, a trendy preseason pick for the various national player of the year honors, played one of his worst games of the season, going 5-for-12 for 11 points. But don't blame Robinson. He was one of the first to be exposed to the dominant, unibrow-bearing force that is Anthony Davis.
The freshman finished that game with 14 points to go along with seven blocks. Davis was just one of five Wildcats to finish in double figures against a defense that was touted as one of the nation's best.
Kentucky would continue to exude its dominance as the regular season wore on, dispatching every opponent with relative ease, save for a one-point loss at Indiana, in which Davis was limited to 24 minutes because of foul trouble.
The Wildcats would slip up one other time before postseason play began, a seven-point loss to Vanderbilt in the SEC championship game. But that loss did nothing to rattle John Calipari's group of one-and-doners, a team with so much talent that many began to speculate as to how they would fare against NBA teams.
That talent was on full display throughout tournament play, as the Wildcats steamrolled their first four opponents, seemingly cake-walking their way to New Orleans. Louisville supposedly had the makings of a Wildcats antidote, with their future Hall of Fame coach, defensive grit and similarity to last year's national championship UConn squad.
Nope, the Wildcats overcame that, too.
As they await the Jayhawks in a matchup that many figure to be Kentucky's toughest test all season, don't believe one bit of it. Kansas may be able to hang around with Kentucky for a while. They may even draw level with the Wildcats late in the second half.
But don't expect this Wildcats team to succumb to the pressure. Not when this Kentucky team is playing the most selfless brand of basketball during Calipari's tenure. Not with Davis, Michael-Kidd Gilchrist and Terrence Jones—three future NBA lottery picks—determined to bring the Wildcats its first championship since 1998. Not with Calipari itching to debunk that he-can't-win-the-big-one criticism that's been so frequently cast his way since he arrived in Lexington.
These Kentucky Wildcats are unlike the groups of recent years, many of them replete with talent but lacking the ego-less, team-first approach essential to championship teams. This team--despite its coterie of future first-rounders--has no such chemistry dilemmas. This team has one goal--win a championship--and a gritty, but less-talented Kansas squad doesn't have what it takes to prevent that goal from becoming a reality.