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Will Kentucky Dominate on Defense This Year Like the 2012 Champion Cats?

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 31:  Rakeem Buckles #4 of the Louisville Cardinals  shoots the ball while defended by Anthony Davis #23 and Terrence Jones  #3 of the Kentucky Wildcats during 69-62 Kentucky win  at Rupp Arena on December 31, 2011 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Doug BrodessCorrespondent IOctober 30, 2012

Sure, Anthony Davis was an amazing scorer and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could take just about anyone to the cup.

As a team, the 2012 national champion Kentucky Wildcats had plenty of offensive firepower. But the primary reason that they cut down the nets in N'awlins was not their ability to put the ball in the hole. They won it all by being dominant on defense.

If you start to review the Cats' 2011-12 national numbers, you quickly see the extent of their dominance:

  • Field Goal Percentage Defense (37.4 percent): No. 1 (in the country)
  • Blocks (344): No. 1
  • Blocks Per Game (8.6): No. 1
  • Scoring Margin (16.8): No. 1
  • Defensive Rebounds (1069): No. 2
  • Fouls per Game (14.8): No. 336

 

This level of statistical supremacy is ridiculous. A single team just does not control so many different categories.

But the '11-12 Wildcats did.

They had the athleticism to pressure opponents as soon as they left the locker room. They had the length to challenge every shot. What no one knew was how well they would play as a team.

Individually, they were each vicious competitors on both ends of the court. Collectively, they were relentless at imposing their will as an unyielding band of defenders. But to come together so well during the course of one season is incomparable.

The bar has been permanently raised in Lexington.

This year's team will be the first to be evaluated and compared with the school's eighth championship squad. It may be astonishing to say this, but this year's team has the physical capabilities to be just as dominant.

The question is: Will they bring the same type of defensive intensity and create the same level of mayhem?

With Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein patrolling the back line, teams will think twice about taking it into the paint. Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress have all the tools to drive opponents nuts with their ability to challenge the ball and every shot. Ryan Harrow is lightning-quick and can harass opposing PGs with the best of them.

What it comes down to and what we will see in the weeks and months ahead is whether or not this team buys into the idea that playing great defense creates the best opportunities to succeed. We will know quickly if this group has the mental toughness and disciplined focus to give their best effort every time down the court when the other team has the ball.

Coach Cal has proven to be a master at getting elite-level talent to quickly work together as a unit. He will have the chance, once again, to work his magic with a talented crew that has the potential to go all the way.

And, whether you are a dyed-in-the-wool member of the Big Blue Nation or a Wildcat hater, it will be captivating to watch it all unfold starting on Friday, November 9th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn against Maryland.

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