I know, Kentucky is always a powerhouse in basketball. Your perennial blue blood program. UK always has one of the best recruiting classes, but in recent years, they haven’t always panned out. Especially in big games, the freshman seem ill-equipped to handle the pressure. This year, IGNORING THE DUKE GAME, Kentucky has not only performed well in big games, they are thriving in them.
Kentucky has won 5 games against ranked teams this season. Three of which have been in their last 3 games; that’s more that Notre Dame Football all year. They controlled the whole game against UNC, beat Louisville of course, somehow pulled one out against Auburn, trounced Mississippi State and handled Kansas.
Ashton Hagans is one of the main reasons Kentucky is doing so well. Normally, the Defensive Player of the Year just goes to the big guy with the most blocks, but Hagans could actually win it from being a lock down defender. Such tenacious defense from a guard is rare in college. Against UNC, Hagans had 8 steals. That’s ridiculous. He is playing like Rajon Rondo, but without the accidental face kicks and eye pokes, of course. Not only is he a great defender, he is one of the leaders of this team even with multiple sophomores and a 5th year senior. The best example of this is during the Auburn game when he got in Keldon Johnson’s face and told him to “wake the f*** up”. Love it.
The other reason for their success is their big guys. The blue collar guys, the lunch pail guys, the big bodies, scrappers and other names my coaches called the white kids. A lot of people have been saying that Reid Travis is soft and he may have heard them. Not only has he been bullying other bigs, he seems kinda mad about it giving defenders the mad dog face every time he scores.
Same with PJ Washington. This dude has been balling. They’re still working on getting him to put his biceps away and get back on defense, but as soon as he does, no team will be able to work the post. Also, now that PJ can actually make free throws, he will be scary come March.
I am so impressed with this Kentucky team. North Carolina was one I really thought they would lose. Kansas was up in the air, but they handled the entire game with poise. But the game I am most impressed with was Auburn. Any Kentucky team in the past 5 years would have found a way to blow that game. That was kinda their thing. But the Cats were able to hold off a last second surge and send Bruce Pearl packing