The Wisconsin Badgers and the Kentucky Wildcats will square Saturday in the second straight Final Four match up between the two teams. We sat down with Wildcat Blue Nation, Fansided’s Kentucky Wildcats website, to gain some insight on Kentucky’s season to date.
A big thanks to Shelby Caudill for taking some time to answer our questions and providing us a look into the 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats season. Make sure to check out Wildcat Blue Nation to dig deeper into the Wildcats’ season.
We’ll catch up with Wildcat Blue Nation again before the big game to dive into the specifics of the 2015 Final Four match up between Wisconsin and Kentucky.
Now on to our questions:
BoH: What were your expectations for this team heading into the season? This Kentucky squad was highly lauded from day one; did you think they had what it took to go undefeated earlier this season?
WBN: My expectations were high coming into the season especially with the talent we had coming back. For the first time since Calipari has been in Lexington, we had a second year point guard in Andrew Harrison to run the show; combine that with the other players coming back and experiencing the loss in the championship game, I knew they’d have a fire. Did I think they had what it took to go undefeated? Of course I thought they had the talent, experience and fire, but I didn’t want to fall into the 40-0 talk. Teams have off days, we had freshmen who still had to learn what college basketball was, I definitely expected a loss or two.
BoH: Willie Cauley-Stein has really come into his own this year, and it looks like it was a great decision for him to return for his junior year. How have you seen his game evolve this year?
WBN: More than anything I think he is believing in himself more. He still goes through spells where you have no idea what’s gotten into him or where he is even at, but he seems to shake them quickly instead of going on a two or three game hiatus. Both him and his teammates are learning who he is as a player more this season and it’s broke his shell. He has bought into the Calipari system. Coming back for his junior year was one of the best decisions I think he could’ve made for himself and his career in the NBA.
BoH: Who gave Kentucky its toughest challenge this year?
WBN: Of course everyone would say Notre Dame, but I don’t think that’s the case. Sure, Notre Dame played us a wild game, but we were shaken from the start, nothing was really going right for us and not much was going wrong for them. I think Georgia in Athens gave us the biggest challenge. They’re an experience squad that have seen Calipari coached teams and they had a pretty good recipe for an upset. They spread the Cats out, made shots and caused them to struggle on the road. I strongly believe if they didn’t have the depth of their bench, They probably would’ve lost the game. Their depth gives us the ability to rest and wear other teams down.
BoH: What would you say is the team’s biggest strength and biggest weakness?
WBN: Our depth is a huge strength. Like I mentioned, the depth of this team is unmatchable. They have a major upper hand by being able to rest their legs and regroup while the other “platoon” is on the floor. Their brotherhood is also a huge strength. This team is full of guys who genuinely like one another and want to see their “brothers” succeed as much as they want to succeed themselves. They push one another and sacrifice their playing time for one another, their team mindset is strong. All of that and experiencing the wild Final Four run to the Championship game loss last season is just a lethal combination for success.
Cincy on the Prowl
Their biggest weakness would have to be their age. Even if they’re Final Four experienced, they’re still led by underclassmen. Willie Cauley-Stein is the lone junior in the lineup, even after the second “platoon” is dispersed. It’d be easier to have the platoon system if Alex Poythress hadn’t torn his ACL earlier this season and he’d also be leading as a junior, but fate happens.
BoH: Do you see the pressure of going undefeated having any impact on this group?
WBN: I don’t think so. The pressure of having to go undefeated now to win the National Championship can take a toll on player for any team. They know now that all of the teams in the Final Four are just as undefeated as they are at this point. Beforehand they would’ve been able to lose a game or two and still be in the situation they’re in in the Final Four, but now it’s a must-do to reach their goal of the championship or their season won’t get the respect it deserves. If anything, I’m thinking the pressure may light a fire under them, they know they can win 2 more games in a row, they’ve won 38 already.