Kentucky Basketball: Is an Undefeated 2013-14 Season Completely Unrealistic?
John Calipari wants to go undefeated, and he's not hiding from it.
He told a group in Ohio in April. He told Andy Katz after Kentucky's 2012 national title. He addressed it a couple of weeks ago in his we-didn't-get-Andrew Wiggins-but-we're-still-awesome press conference.
Per Kyle Tucker of The Courier-Journal, he said:
We’re chasing perfection. We’re chasing greatness. We’re chasing things that have never been done in the history of our game.
... Now, I’m not sitting there saying, ‘If we lose a game, it’s not a successful season.’ No. But you’re chasing greatness. What’s wrong with that?
Nothing, Cal. Nothing is wrong with wanting to do something great.
It's quite nice of you to give us something to talk about during the offseason, too. And it's going to be talked about a lot. Because, well, it's Kentucky. It's Calipari. And what he's done is historic—you have to give him that.
This recruiting class that includes six McDonald's All-Americans is the reason an undefeated season is even worth the keystrokes. The Wildcats are going to be good. They have too much talent not to be good. Calipari is too good a coach.
But going undefeated? Is that even a possibility?
Well, to put bluntly, no, it's not.
Since Indiana's perfect season in 1976, it's not just that no one has gone undefeated; no one has even won the national title with one loss.
UNLV almost did it. The Runnin' Rebels almost had a perfect season in 1991, and they're the last team to enter the tournament with a perfect record.
You know what was different about that UNLV team and this Kentucky one? Besides the fact that the Rebels relied on upperclassmen, they played in the Big West. Their best competition was Fresno State.
The SEC is hardly murderers' row, but the 'Cats have to play Florida, a top-10 team with at least two seniors in the starting lineup. They have to play Marshall Henderson and Ole Miss, which isn't that daunting of task considering what that team has coming back, but Henderson could get hot and there's a loss.
Kentucky also has to play a Michigan State team in Chicago that will be preseason top five and returns four starters. Calipari has to take his team to the Dean Dome. Louisville comes to town on Dec. 28.
Michael Jordan played with another Hall of Famer and didn't go undefeated. Magic Johnson didn't go undefeated. The Fab Five lost nine games as freshmen. Duke repeated as champs in 1992 after ruining UNLV's perfect season in 1991 and still lost two games. Florida returned its entire starting five from a championship team and lost five games in 2007.
How many games will Kentucky lose in the 2013-14 season?
And those perfect Hoosiers? They started four seniors and a junior and had to win only 32 games. They also didn't have to deal with the three-point line or a shot clock.
Kentucky would have to win 40. And Calipari will rely on freshmen and sophomores.
LeBron James could have spent his rookie season as a freshman at Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina or Ohio State, and "the King" would have lost at least one game.
It's just too difficult to win that many games with that much pressure and that much attention.
So, Cal can dream. Kentucky fans can dream. They can tell me I'm crazy, that I'm underestimating just how good this team can be.
That's fine. I'll eat crow if I'm wrong. I'm not betting against Cal. I'm not betting against the talent he's assembled.
I'm betting on history.
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