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Opinion: A Kentucky national championship would be a true Cinderella story

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Kentucky's Aaron Harrison (left) and Willie Cauley-Stein (15) celebrate at the end in a 68-66 win against Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament's Elite 8 on March 28 in Cleveland. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Kentucky’s Aaron Harrison (left) and Willie Cauley-Stein (15) celebrate at the end in a 68-66 win against Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament’s Elite 8 on March 28 in Cleveland.
Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Everyone loves a Cinderella story, but underdogs running through March Madness to win the NCAA basketball title are bad for the game.

That’s why I’m glad Michigan State — a seven seed — was the lowest ranked team in this year’s Elite Eight. That’s why I’m glad Georgia State and UAB were knocked out after moments of glory, and, most of all, that’s why I’m glad 38-0 Kentucky is writing its very own version of a Cinderella story.

Was it hard for Shabazz Napier to lead seventh-seeded Connecticut to a title last season? Sure, and it was fun to watch.

But that has nothing on what it takes to run the table with 40 straight wins.

Kentucky starts identical twins at guard and two freshmen at forward and has a Naismith Award candidate at center who doesn’t even average 10 points per game. Coach John Calipari, regardless of questionable activities at past stops in his career, has built perhaps the best team in college basketball history.

Now with the Final Four just around the corner, two more Wildcat wins would be best for the sport.

After tossing Hampton out of the tournament with ease, dispatching Cincinnati and embarrassing West Virginia, Kentucky got its first true test of the tournament. Once again, the Wildcats came out on top, this time against Notre Dame in the quarterfinals.

A date with Wisconsin is the only thing in the way of a return trip to the title game for the Wildcats, but the story this year is much more of a Cinderella than what it was for the then-eighth-seeded men in blue.

I couldn’t care less what their ratings were in high school or how many scholarship offers they had — to take a roster of 15 players and win 40 games in a row would be the most impressive feat in basketball history since UCLA’s 88-game run.

And to an extent, one clean slate with such a young roster under the watchful eye of the nation’s media could be even more impressive.

It’s hard to win a basketball game. It’s even harder to win two. And to keep doing that even after undefeated predictions were coming down before the season started is truly incredible, regardless of who the players are.

Kentucky is the best team this year. That’s not a question, but regardless of how good you are, 40-win seasons don’t come around very often. And by not very often, I mean it has never happened before.

No matter your opinion of Calipari and his recruiting tactics, the Wildcats deserve the title, and will probably get it.

If that projection comes true, it’ll be the best-case scenario for college basketball.

And if you’re still stuck on hoping for a Cinderella story, just remember that there have been the same number of 40-win teams as 16-seeds that won a tournament game.

One comment

  1. Might want to pop in that Cinderella VHS to refresh your memory on what it means to be a Cinderella.

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